When Professional Life and Personal Life Meld
My Dual Role: The Professional and The Daughter
A good portion of my time is spent reassuring older adults and their family members that I understand what they are going through. I am a Clinical Social Worker with a 30-year career in working with older adults and their family members. The primary focus of my work has been to guide and support older adults in the aging process to improve the safety and quality of their lives. My undergrad and graduate education is in Social Work and my PhD was earned as being the daughter of a fiercely independent mother. You see, my professional and personal life often collide at this time of my life.
Understanding the Aging Process: A Social Worker’s Perspective
I have been an advocate of the rights of older adults’ wishes while being mindful of the need to provide safety measures. Social Work school taught me that a client’s right to self-determination is an ethical principle that recognizes the rights for clients to make their own choices.
Marie’s Way: The Independence of a 94-year-old
That goes out the window when dealing with my 94-year-old mom. Marie lives alone in her home of over 65 years in Ohio, she walks to her church and volunteers once a week, she does her laundry and cooks her own meals. There’s no topic regarding her safety that I discuss with her that is not dismissed in 2 minutes. My suggestions for her safety and quality of life are always met with the standard saying: “ I’m not ready”. In my professional opinion, she is very ready: for a walker, cleaning help, a move to a senior community where she can play bridge, enjoy happy hour, and talk sports, however, she believes she is not ready.
The Siblings’ Support Network: United for Mom’s Well-being
She lives life on her terms, and I continue to worry from a distance. I’m not alone in this; I am part of a group. This caring, cautious, and nervous group consists of my sisters and brother. We’re on a group text and reach out to each other often. We text to update each other and discuss ways to keep her safe and happy. When we feel a subject needs to be proposed to my mom, we turn to my brother, the oldest and her only son as she will listen to him. Last year an emergency response system was proposed after a serious fall, she rejected the idea. After a sibling conference call, Steve was elected to speak with her, she begrudgingly accepted it and now has an emergency response system.
Lessons from Care Management: The Beauty of Watchful Waiting
The majority of my career has been in the field of Care Management. This is the perfect fit for me, working with older adults in their home, over the course of time. I am honored to be a part of their life at this stage, have meaningful conversations and listen to their concerns, fears and hopes.
I have discussed the concept of watchful waiting with my siblings and my client’s children. Staying updated on our parents and being ready to assist when they are willing to accept it. As adult children, we are first responders; ready to spring into action and be the ultimate safety net.
Reflections on Independence in Aging
I commend all of us for navigating this stage of life. In my mind, I hear Frank Sinatra singing “I did it my way” and it makes me smile.
The Dilemma of Independence and Safety: A Personal and Professional Take
How do we protect those who want to retain their independence and what will we want when we are their age? It is a dilemma that I understand at a professional and personal level.