By Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC
My client was a woman of many parts. Over the course of her lifetime, Edith had been an artist, a speech pathologist, a teacher, a counselor, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and even an astronaut! She had trained with NASA to be among the first civilians to go up in a rocket, but those hopes were dashed along with the Challenger.
Edith was an ardent American patriot, having immigrated to the United States as a young adult fleeing the spread of Nazism. She had been a beautiful, vibrant, European intellectual of the Bohemian sort.
When I met Edith, she was 85 years old and ravaged by the effects of advanced Parkinson’s. She could neither walk nor speak, but she still had a lively look in her eyes. She lived in a small house with her remarkably caring and efficient home health aide, who exquisitely managed all aspects of her care and household.
But sadly Edith outlived her money. She could no longer support her independent lifestyle. Fortunately, one of her daughters was able to step up to the plate and provide generously for her mother’s ongoing care. It was then determined that it was time for Edith to move to a nursing home and I coordinated the transition.
Her daughter wanted to bring as many of Edith’s treasured belongings to her new living situation as she could. So we hung a number of her large original paintings on the walls along with the stunning photo of Edith suited up in her NASA uniform. We covered the bed with her red, white and blue quilt. We hung an American flag and distributed other reminders of Edith’s colorful past and multiple roles around the room. The room accurately reflected who she was.
The effect on the staff was heartwarming! Word spread. They came from all parts of the nursing home to see Edith’s room and learn about who she was. They marveled at all this woman had done in her life. They began to see her as a real person, not just as a frail old woman in need of “total care.” The décor of her room focused the staff on the essence of Edith’s humanity.
PEARL OF WISDOM
Frail elderly people were once active, involved members of their families and communities. They are surely worthy of our respect and reverence.
Joan Blumenfeld is a Geriatric Care Manager based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. For more information visit her web site at www.joanblumenfeld.com. © 2010 Joan Blumenfeld.
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