Katia Petersen is the Director of Education at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and supports the Conscious Aging program for 800+ facilitators around the globe via a monthly teleconfernce.
I don’t know if anyone is ever really prepared to face the reality of aging parents and the challenges that come with that part of their journey. It is an intricate time, filled with emotions and thoughts that are both stressful and heartwarming.
And while in my professional life part of what I do is support caregivers and the elders they are responsible for, when I went to visit my mother-in-law for the first time after her heart attack I wondered how she would experience this new 24-hour care setting. Of course I hoped she would receive the best care possible, but being human I found myself going into a protective mode, wondering what to expect in this new setting.
When my husband and I first saw her, she was having lunch with a group of other elders. I began to relax as Mom looked up and saw us, and instantly became the vibrant person I know, evidenced by the joy on her face. She proudly introduced her son letting everyone know how special he is to her, and introduced me by saying, “This is my daughter-in-law, and watch out, she’s a hugger.” They all laughed and I could see how comfortable they felt in this setting, and how that was going to help Mom feel comfortable as well.
In getting to know her caregivers my fears and concerns melted away completely as I experienced their compassion, humor and sincere sense of caring. They attended to Mom’s needs, made sure she knew they were there for her, and held the balance between letting her do what she could on her own and knowing when to offer their help. The true calling of their “work,” became clear to me. If I were to write their job descriptions based on what I saw, it would not include the details of medication, therapy, and daily tasks as much as it would read, “purveyor of compassion,” “agent of support,” and “custodian of dignity.” Seeing this in action I was able to relax, knowing that Mom was in the right place, and trusting that she would find support and comfort during this challenging and confusing time.
This experience reinforced those things that I know on a professional level. The staff demonstrated how important it is for caregivers to create a place of belonging, a sense of purpose, opportunities for elders to engage in conversations and their favorite activities. What I was delighted to witness was that the modeling of these actions can build a bridge of trust between the caregivers and the adult children. When the staff engaged with Mom in the course of their duties, their extra attention to these details made all the difference. Mom’s energy shifted and she could not wait to socialize with others, regardless if she knew or remembered who they were.
When I left mom that day my heart was filled with gratitude for the support and care she was receiving. I recognized how important it is to build a strong and healthy relationship with the people who will be taking care of someone you love dearly on a daily basis and how to celebrate life for what it is at this moment.
For more information visit http://noetic.org/education/conscious-aging.