You know how some people just have a knack for being around kids? Well I have that knack with older people.
I was the youngest in my family so when my older siblings went off to college or work, I was still hanging around usually with my parents and their friends. That was how I began to see the world through the eyes of a different generation; people 30 – 40 years older than me.
My first job was a CNA (certified nursing assistant) in a nursing home. I was a live-in care-takers through college. I graduated with a degree in Gerontology (University of MN). I have been an assisted living manager, and counseled countless families through the pitfalls and mine fields of moving an elder from one location to another, a transition that is more than a metaphor for moving into a different chapter of life.
I became a mother the same time my own parents needed to make a move into a more suitable home for their advanced years. Being sandwiched between children and parents is often referred to as the “sandwich generation”. But when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my father had strokes, I described my role as “silly-putty-like” since there seemed to be no end to amount of stretching that was required. It was then I added “Juggling” to my resume.
Dr’s appointments, more moves, falls, problem solving, frequent hospitalizations, trouble shooting, …as stressful as the chaos was, I was grateful for the foundation of understanding I had gained. I was lucky to know the terms so I could communicate effectively with healthcare providers, what to watch out for, the short-cuts that could save us valuable time and resources.
The learning curve is steep if you are just entering this sector. How in the world do people do this with little or no understanding of the complexities of aging?
Years later, as I re-entered the working world, I went back to counseling families in the midst of change. I’ve listened to daughters explain how afraid they are that their parent is in danger. I’ve listened to spouses searching for someone to help them rebuild their broken lives. I heard families hoping that someone else would simply tell them what to do so that they could dutifully follow directions. I listen to people who were trying to make sense of the choices in front of them but first they had to understand a new language of diagnosis codes and certification levels.
My parents are gone now. I have no regrets. I have learned that I may have some answers many people are seeking. I am here to help. If it helps you in your situation, I am glad.