Listening and trust
(being a caregiver)
One of the most difficult aspects in care-giving is to know when to step in for the good of ones charge and when to let them be…even if the situation can be precarious in some ways. As long as someone is not in a cognitive state where they can’t take care of themselves, or they are not suffering from some delusion that could endanger them; then their wishes need to be given a great deal of consideration.
Luke is 101 years old. While he does from time to time have some bouts of confusion, they are not serious and he can maneuver himself around the grounds without too much danger. Of course there is always the danger of him falling and I do worry about that. I have talked with him far more that a few times about the danger of falling; he listens and then speeds off. He has a rollator, a great invention and much better than a walker if it can be used. It affords good exercise and some speed and most come equipped with a seat that can be used if tiredness sets in.
Yesterday, what I knew would happen, happened. Luke had quite a fall, though thank God, there were no broken bones; just a skinned knee and he bruised his right cheek and scraped his nose. I got the call and we took a wheel chair down to the ground level. After I evaluated him and found no need to think he had a fracture of any kind, we slowly lifted him into the wheelchair and brought him back to the infirmary. We did what we could; applied ice, cleaned his knee and upper right cheek and applied antibiotic ointment. We have a nice lazy boy chair that we placed him in so he could rest and also be observed.
Sally, a nurse was there with her daughter Amy, and she was a great help in ministering to Luke. She is a great friend and probably one of the reasons he is still alive. He loves company and Sally is very generous in the time that she spends with him. Luke also has many friends from the local Polish community that love him and visit from time to time. He is quite the loving extrovert and friendship is central to his well being.
He had a good night and this morning he wanted to stay in bed awhile longer, which I of course encouraged. He still has to be watched closely since at his age a fall could have some lasting affects that would dictate some changes in his care. It is always worrisome when caring for someone his age that is so filled with energy and ambulatory; it is like waiting for the other shoe to drop
To try to force a regime that would attempt to keep him safer would actually do more harm than good. There is a level of trust that goes both ways. One requirement for allowing Luke to trust us is for him to know and experience that we will listen to him and take what he says to us to heart. He also will listen to us when a point is pressed. For instance, on days when he seems out of sorts and tired, he will listen to me when I recommend that he rest more, or stay in the infirmary and do his mail etc. Because we listen to him, he understands that when we recommend something we are not trying to simply control him.
So today I will observe him, see how he walks around the unit and see how his mind is operating and hopefully he will be able to go back to his routine. However each time this happens, a fall, it does put him at a new level, even if it does not make us change his care regime at this time.
As he ages, he gets more lovable and gentle and his humor has not diminished in any way. He laughs easily and when he does get angry at me from time to time, it does not last long. I have grown to love and cherish him.
A friend asked me one day what is the most important thing I have learned in being a care giver. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that the most important aspect of my job is to know when to listen and when the time comes to override. Both can be difficult and emotionally exhausting.