I get asked all the time…”How do you do what you do for others?” “What’s it like to be a first responder to seniors?” “Can your clients REALLY call you 24-Hours a Day on your Home Care Hotline?” (yes they can) Or…”Isn’t it just sooo depressing?” “How can you be there at end of life?”
“The same man never crosses the same stream twice”.
That couldn’t be more true. We are deeply impacted by the actions, stories, news & political events.
The challenges we muck through on a daily basis? In the end, they help to define us. The mistakes we have made are as critical in shaping who we are than our successes may be.
We are enlightened by the experiences that come to define us. As my friend and I spoke over some amazing tacos, among other things, several of these same questions came up when I detailed the advanced needs one of our clients is currently experiencing.
Have you ever put on a smile when it’s time to do something you’ve been dreading? Oh you gotta. If that doesn’t do it? Try singing.
Here’s a story from early in my career at Always There Home Care. I’m going to use fictitious names to protect the identity of our patients, but their story is indeed true and very common to many client experiences we have seen. Here’s a little bit about Ralph & Mary.
We had received a call from Mary, who was a woman in her late 80’s.
Her husband Ralph was quite literally twice her size in body weight and towered over her by nearly a whole foot.
He had been a hulking man his whole life, a former college football player and lifelong athlete. He lived mostly mostly a healthy life until his 80’s when he had a mild stroke, and then a more severe one.
His recovery was limited and his disease progress made tasks around the house more difficult. Impossible really. It made him an absolute fall risk and certainly disqualified his wife from being able to do even the small things to help him without danger to her own well-being. In one fall, Mary had in fact dislocated her elbow and required surgery. It was Ralph’s fall.
Working with seniors has exposed me to those whom have taken their marriage vows TO THE LETTER. When we would ask Mary, what was she thinking trying to stop Ralph from one of his falls, putting herself in harms way? She would say: “I love him”.
Mary’s right. She acted instinctively and irrationally, and illogically…but also in a loving way, ultimately causing harm to herself. Something had to give. Mary couldn’t lift or transfer Ralph on his shower chair or off of the toilet with only one arm. And deep down she knew it wasn’t worth putting him into a position to not have her in the picture because she was at the hospital or rehabilitation center. They acted rationally, they got the help they needed.
And we had David. David was one of our sweet and kind male caregivers. David and Ralph had a picture perfect routine that included David (a former glee club and current church choir member) a singing-in-the-shower routine. (David singing, Ralph enjoying).
And then…all hell broke loose. For all of us. David was injured in a car accident and not able to work for over 60 days. Frankly, at that time? We did not have another David. He was our only male, and he was in a word…irreplaceable.
Knowing we would eventually get David back, I decided I would absorb David’s time with Ralph. Personally. Talk about having a true appreciation for the work. To this day, one of the hardest things I have ever done is putting on Ralph’s support socks. Have you ever tried to do this for a loved one? OMG. It’s nearly impossible. This was a daily 30 minute challenge (it took me an hour the first day).
After breakfast? Ralph LOVED shower time. What used to be risky, fearful, and dangerous to Mary had become a special time for all. Mary would sit in the bedroom nearby and read the paper so she could also tune into the beautiful voice that David has. Ralph would lose himself in the steam, the warmth, and the falsetto. It was a special experience.
And then the new guy comes in. The company owner. Day one…checking off all the pertinent duties…and suddenly it’s shower time. Ralph is there in his birthday suit. He’s cold. He’s nude. He’s uncomfortable. He’s on his shower bench. I get the water to his skin melting favorite temperature, filling the whole bathroom with steam…and begin scrubbing good old naked Ralph.
I’m not above washing butts. Privates. As David or any of our other great staff may say, “it’s just like washing yourself”…and it’s true. But we were maybe halfway through the shower when Ralph looked at me expectantly…and I broke out in song.
There was hesitation of course. I didn’t know if Ralph would enjoy my voice. I was no David after all. But…I found my own voice. “Lord You Are…”, “Amazing Grace”, “Father I Adore You”, “Humble Thyself”…Just a bunch of songs I had on my mind and enjoyed singing as Program Director at First Community Church’s Camp Akita.
No, I didn’t think when I was leading those kids in song high on a hill top at Camp Akita in the Hocking Hills that I would ever perform these special songs to a naked elderly man and his wife…but…I didn’t care anymore. We were beyond the nude and right into the sanctity of what this bathing experience could be.
Turns out? I was a serviceable replacement for David. Looking back? I truly enjoyed my time with Ralph and Mary. It’s really true, the same man never crosses the same stream twice. It changed me. I grew for this experience. I loved trying to find new songs, deepening my voice, trying to use the acoustics of the large shower to it’s full potential. Finding ways to make an otherwise uncomfortable exprience..enjoyable! And? I was as happy as Mary and Ralph were when David returned.
My late and impossibly great Best Man Jerry Flaherty had a great metaphor that never gets old to me. He would say: “In the breakfast of Bacon and Eggs….The Chicken is involved but the Pig is COMMITTED.”
Why do we work so hard on behalf of our clients? Because we commit like the pig in that glorious metaphor from Jerry. Because we love them. Because we love the work. If you don’t love it? Don’t do it. And if you love the seniors in your life, don’t let them be blinded by the love they have for each other at the expense of their own safety. Get them help! Who knows…they may be singing about it in a shower near you.
How can we help your senior loved one? We can love them. We can help them. We can guide them and protect them.
How can you help them? Call our 24-Hour Home Care Hotline (614) HOME-CARE 466-3227 and..
Schedule a FREE In-Home Care Assessment. I will invite the whole family and we can together assemble a care plan that makes sense and achieves the goals and squashes the fears. I can’t wait to meet your loved ones!
Our company’s ongoing mission? Live our motto. “Your Home. Your Rules. Our Care.”
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