A Teachable Moment

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Alice

        Private Care is kind of like a weird Tim Burton version of Mary Poppins, except instead of love starved, dysfunctional children, I’ve got an elderly couple who have been married for nearly fifty years.
Technically, only one of them is my client but the fact is it’s a dance. As I am working independently, any work boundaries that need to be set have to come from me and setting and accepting my own limits in a work environment is an area in which I sorely lack.
I don’t like to rush my client. It is quite simply my favorite part of home care. If she wants to take an hour to brush her teeth, she can! The shifts are long and we have the time. I fail miserably at curling and teasing her hair and helping her with her make up, but the end result isn’t nearly as important to her as the fact that I’m willing to try. The trouble comes when her husband feels the need to rush. If I don’t act quickly, he’s a bundle of nerves and then she’s a bundle of nerves and then HELLLLOOOO ANXIETY, as I try desperately to keep everyone happy while maintaining an air of serenity.

I find myself tip toeing on that line of co-dependency far too often. Staying late and coming early, letting those little bits of time go without mentioning pay, cooking for their children and grandchildren on occasion, it does add up. I’m learning though, and not just how to be a better cook either. For one thing, I’m negotiating with myself. I like it when my client’s family comes to visit. It fills her with pure joy, like turning on an inner light switch. I am willing to cook for ten and clean up after for my client to have those moments. It gives me joy too. But then I have to put on my big girl pants and have that oh so scary conversation about being compensated for the hours that I stay late or come early. That’s the deal. Some things, I am learning to bend on and others I have to stand firm.

I’m learning how to teach someone who doesn’t even realize he’s a student. I love that!
“You have to speed her up. Sometimes she needs reminding that she’s handicap.” Her husband said to me one day. I explained to him that my job is to do all that I can to make it so she feels LESS powerless over her condition and owned by her limitations, not to remind her of them. He was quiet and for minute I thought I was in for it.

“You know, I never thought of it like that before.”  It was a teachable moment for both of us. I forget sometimes that not everyone can see what is obvious to me after working in this field for a few years.

Often I miss facility work. I felt more at home with the pace and home health can be very lonely. It’s long days with only the client and her husband to interact with. So much is dependent on moods. If her husband is in a bad mood, it throws my client off too and then I’m in for a long and uncomfortable fourteen hours. But it definitely isn’t boring, as I thought it would be. There is plenty to do and learn. I feel like I’m still exploring the parameters of my job in this area of the field.

Do I want to be in private care in a year? No. But for now that doesn’t matter. This is where I landed and this is where I’m needed. At least I’m not in Long Island!