In honor of Valentine’s Day, and as a counterpoint to my last two posts discussing difficult families (Family is the Other F Word and When did Fredo Die?) I must admit that I’ve been lucky. Most of my clients’ families seem to be looking out for their elderly loved ones (i.e., my clients.)
I have an advantage on that score. I can choose my clients. More accurately, I can walk away from any family that gives me a “bad feeling” about their real intentions. I do have a few clients whose families make me regret taking them on. The vast majority of my clients, though, really seem to be focused on the elderly family member’s best interests.
That’s gratifying. It makes me feel good about what I’ve chosen to do for a living. I feel like part of a team pulling together to help the elderly senior. The team obviously includes the other family members, but it also includes the professional caregivers and social workers. While we haven’t been able to reverse the effects of age and illness, we have been able to help the senior find comfort, companionship, entertainment, and joy through the involvement of the caregivers, therapists, activities coordinators, doctors, nurses, and especially the family. It’s great to see family visits.
At the same time, it is difficult to see the hurt that the family members sometimes feel. I met with a client and her granddaughter recently. The granddaughter brought along her own sons (my client’s great-grandsons.) The oldest boy, who was probably the only one able to remember Great-Grandma before her Alzheimer’s) cried when he saw how difficult it was for Great-Grandma to listen and to speak and to understand. It was gratifying to see that a young man cared enough to feel sad for his Great-Grandma, but it was difficult to realize that it was sadness that he had to feel rather than joy. Great-Grandma just isn’t going to return to being the person he remembers, and his realization of that unfortunate truth really hurt him.
I am grateful for my families who, despite the difficulties and the emotional pain, involve themselves with their elderly loved ones. For this Valentine’s Day (and, I suppose, every day,) I hope that every long term care patient is also someone’s loved one.
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