In some ways I'm kind of unique. My parents divorced when I was six months old and my grandparents played a huge part in my life. We moved in with them when I was around two years old and for most of my life I've been more comfortable with older folks than my peers. I learned to bake early, around eight years old and could kick ass at Canasta soon after. Playing Checkers with my Grandfather was one of my favorite pastimes.
Needless to say, when I finally settled into a 'career' it was working with the elderly. I worked at several senior centers and ended up as a Senior Outreach Counselor for Office for the Aging. It was a good fit. I'd always had a tremendous amount of respect for the generation that lived through two world wars and survived the depression. These people were tough, resourceful and most reluctant to accept help. It was always important to me to make sure their dignity was preserved.
During the interview/home visit process, my questions were directed at the client. I'm patient. I could wait for their answer, even if it took a few minutes to assemble their thoughts. Many times their children were present and while I wanted to offer assistance and support to them, my focus was my client. What do you need? How can I help? What help are you willing to accept?
Subsequent visits were usually more informal as we got to know each other and friendships developed. I made it a point not to talk over their heads unless they were inarticulate and/or unable to understand me. If that was the case I had no options but to get the family involved, and I did, but again, for me it was all about the client.
I tell you all these things to show you my natural mindset so you will understand how upsetting and downright angry it made me recently to have age discrimination hit me right between the eyes.
My daughter is a Godsend, in every way. During Bill's (and mine) illness the past year she's been with me each step of the way. Cathy will be 43 in February, I'll be 61 the same month, not exactly over-the-hill, but I've noticed that when she's with me, which is often, many times the answers to my questions are directed to her.
During Bill's recent hospitalization, the fourth in five months, I found that the nurses would come into the room and speak with her as though I wasn't even there. When we returned home the nurse from the home care agency did the same thing. Thank God she was temporary and just covering for the nurse that covers our area. She's a gem, but the first one, ugh! After having my questions either ignored or answered by way of speaking with my daughter as though I was a complete idiot, I finally walked out of the room.
Apparently I need to have my high-lights redone. I was scheduled for eye-surgery on the 19th, but I put it off once again, figuring even Cathy couldn't take care of her Dad and a blind mother. I'll do it as soon as he's better. Maybe then I will look younger and appear more worthy of getting the information on caring for the man I've loved for 44 years!
In the meantime I'm plotting something entirely new in my head. A erotic romance/murder mystery. Death will be by egg salad sandwich. I'll explain more later, if this old, incompetent bitch can manage to string two sentences together. WTH!
But the way, in case you're wondering why I changed careers, it was because I burnt out. The career life of an Outreach Worker is only a few years due to the stressful nature of the job. I did it for twelve and changed after caring for my mother who died of cancer. The Hospice nurses were some of the kindest and most compassionate I've met.