Katya & Frank
After working long hours in understaffed facilities with a multitude of patients, many eldercare professionals often emotionally and physically burn out. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence, and in an attempt to prevent it, some facilities encourage emotional detachment.
Home health staff experiences something similar. Many have minimal eldercare training especially about dementia and are sent from one client to another. It is difficult to create emotional bonds in these work environments. My training workshops included many eldercare professionals and I needed to address this issue.
Here’s what I tell them:
“I understand how difficult it is to become emotionally involved with your residents when there are so many to care for and no time to complete your daily rounds. However, most of you probably know one special person–one you feel a special connection to. This is where you allow yourself to bond, create friendship, and allow yourself to love them.”
“Get involved in their life and ensure their needs are always being met. If possible, meet the family, offer them your friendship and learn from them who their loved one has been. Get to know this person.”
“Come to work five minutes early, greet your friend, inquire about his or her needs, and help with them. Let your friend be the last goodbye of the day. A great way to wind down is to spend five minutes of relaxed off-the-clock time with your friend before leaving.”
“Bring small gifts, cards, cookies, holiday presents, and decorations for their room. Remember special dates like a birthday or anniversary. This friendship and the love and gratitude you will receive will fill your heart.”
“Allow yourself to mourn them when they pass, and if possible, offer support to the family. Even though your friend is gone, the memories and the love you shared remain. “You can create another ‘special friendship’, which often helps with the loss. After all, there’s never too much love to give or receive, and there is always another resident who needs what you can give.”
“However, it’s not always necessary, because the love you gave and received with your friend never dies. Love has a way of expanding when we allow it to become part of us; it spills out from the heart and blesses everyone around us.”
Frank had late-stage Alzheimer’s and he was my “special friend”. Although he passed years ago, he remains close to me to this day. I can feel his presence when writing this article and know he applauds my efforts. He forever remains with me, guiding, encouraging, and continuing to teach me.