Language and the power of choice are two ways we speak to the world. Language can come out of our mouth or out of actions or speak from the heart, with energetic force. Choice is how we live every day, and with each choice the consequence falls forward like the clocks in the spring taking us into a new light and a new place to exist.
The weather this week has been amazing, and I attempted to take full advantage. I was so thankful that I could drive with ease and not need the freshly minted snow tires! I hiked and I walked when I could. I parked in the furthest spot so I could take in the day as I crossed the tarmac, feeling the sun on my face. My pleasure was beyond words. I could not articulate how deeply happy I feel. My choice is to live each day finding the good, the bad and seeing what could be ugly and attempting to see it through my rose coloured glasses.
I went into work and began my shift. Another day with familiar people. I come to my workplace however I must remember the duality. While this may be my workplace, it is also their home. This is a contrast that many others will not witness in any other job. Caregiving is intimate and is personal and a very private matter, taking place in the “home” of the client. Feeling safe and cared for is my job, the mechanics of it are secondary.
The language I use, and my choices will make or break a person’s confidence and trust in me. Sometimes I chuckle to myself when an older person corrects me when I call their personal hygiene a “brief”. They will call to me, “it is a diaper, let’s be honest!” Their label is a statement, reminding anyone in earshot they choose to see it as a negative instead of a helping hand in their lives.
As we age the body begins to breakdown. Biologically the body is built to breakdown. I would argue it is our need and desire to stay alive at all cost that is the enemy here, not the breakdown of the body. Each day I work with 20+ different people all in different places in their lives, different stages and much different cognitive ability. I watch and I learn, and I listen.
The language I use with them, like calling their underwear a “brief” instead of a “diaper” is important. They can choose to call it whatever they like, however I hope with my language I will encourage them to see it as an aid, not a defining factor. I am patient as I can be and let them be who they are in any given moment, because like a child exploring their territory, aging adults are exploring this new world of theirs as well. I worked with one client who while he was thanking, and thanking, me for my service to him, asked me, “do you know how old I am?” and I honestly did not know. He said, “I am 98!” and I looked at him in wonder. We talked and we chatted, and I asked him about all the things he had seen in his 98 years. I finished up with his brief, took off his support stockings, covered him up with is favourite fuzzy blanket and waved goodnight from the door. His last words were, “thank you so much my dear, I appreciate your help so much!” In his room is a bed, a TV and two chairs, yet he is so content with his life. He said to me, “did you see the moon tonight?” and, also he said, when I asked if he wanted his headphones, “they aren’t working, I don’t know why.” I figured it out and he happily put them on to watch a little television.
Another person was so excited to see me at 7 p.m. as she can let down her day by putting on her nightie and relax after taking off the support hose. The phone rang while we were working together and she said, “let it go, I know who it is! I can call them back.” I reached for the phone and said, “just answer and let them know!” It was her son who calls her every night. I did not want him to worry, nor did I want her to miss his call. We talked about the fears of children in a world that is so scary. I rubbed cream on her legs and snuggled her into her freshly washed nightie, housecoat and slippers and we folded her clothes and put them away.
These are stories of choice. People who in their aging choose contentment right where they are. The language we use together is light and conversational, a blessing to my ragged day at times. The other side of the coin is the gentle struggle we have with those whose dementia has caused paranoia and distrust of all that is around them. Those whose body is so painful and riddled with illness they can only burst with complaints and frustration with why they must live that way. Choice is not always easy.
In your youth and health are you choosing how you feel each day or are you living in a place where your wounds and your past experiences are the fodder for your future? Each day do you strive to choose to be happier, accept the past and work it through picking up the lessons learned? Take a day and work with an elderly person and listen to their past and realize no life is carefree and no life is without challenge. It is how we choose to live and in what language we speak that brings hope and faith. To all my colleagues in care…remember the important job you do…and to those care giving at home, love it and get the support you need.
Cynthia Breadner is a teacher, author, grief specialist and bereavement counsellor; a soul care worker and offers specialized care in spiritually integrated therapies. She works as a LTC chaplain assisting with end-of-life care for client and family. She is the mother part of the #DanCynAdventures duo and practices fitness, health and wellness. She is available remotely by safe and secure video connections, if you have any questions contact her today!