Two groups read this blog: Boomers grappling with issues facing their aging parents and professionals working with seniors. And people who fall into both groups.
Perhaps you do. You've helped adult children deal with their parents' strokes, fractured hips, depression and dementia. You've supported them and offered the gift of empathy. Now, though, the shoe is on the other foot. Your parent has the issues. Your new role feels disconcerting, strange, shaky.
I'm reminded of the Disney musical film, "Alice in Wonderland." I listened to its sound track by the hour as a little girl. In one song, Alice chides herself for her proclivity to get into trouble, something all of us do from time to time. "I give myself very good advice," she sings, "but I very seldom follow it."
We professionals often know what to do, but when it's our parent, we move from pros to children, to mother bears. Our protective nature takes over. Sometimes we rotate the roles.
Take Abby Durr, owner of Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals, where I work. In addition to her professional role, for years Abby has overseen the care of her grandma who has Parkinson's. Members of their large extended family lend a hand, watching Grandma, washing her clothes, cleaning her home. Their collective goal is to enable Grandma to stay at home as long as possible. So far, so good, at least until several weeks ago.
Bam! Grandma tumbled and moved from Home, Sweet, Home to the hospital. Then came rehab. Abby's advocacy soon kicked into full gear. "The first night at the nursing home, we ate with her," Abby recalls. "When the staff delivered her meal tray, the cover was labeled, 'soft mechanical diet,' needed because she has difficulty swallowing. But when we lifted the cover, the food wasn't mechanically altered in any way. Grandma couldn't have safely eaten it."
Days later, when Abby attended her grandmother's care conference, the subject of home care came up. Abby and the rest of the family knew Grandma needed extra care during the hours family members couldn't be there. "She'll likely need help bathing," a staff member said.
"I can do that," Abby said. Abby is also a Certified Nursing Assistant. She could feel herself suddenly go into protective mode. "I wanted to protect Grandma. Since I'd done it for quite a while, I knew exactly how she wanted things done. And I didn't want to give up that role."
Today Abby says that advocating for her grandma in this crisis time, helps her better understand the struggles her clients as they face difficult decisions--and situations--with their loved ones.
Bottom line: Walking through hard times with our own loved ones helps us understand and empathize with our clients.