Stress Management

When Caring leads to Love

Is it OK to love your clients?

I say yes.

Before you report me to the State Ethics committee, I’m not talking about romantic entanglements or inappropriate sexual contact or even the violation of healthy boundaries.

But in the health care field we’ve always been told “don’t get too attached” to the clients that we care for.  But doesn’t this go against human nature?

Heart Leaf

Photo by Niffty via Flickr

Most of the nurses, social workers, home health aides, and other allied health professionals I know have gone into this work because they care about people and want to help them.  When you provide intimate, day to day care for human beings, the kind that eases suffering and reduces loneliness, and you hear someone’s personal stories, share lots of laughter and a few tears, you naturally come to love them. 

And they love you, too.

Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of The Eden Alternative, has written about this in his book, “What Are Old People For: How Elders Will Save the World.”

He proposes that instead of denying the love that health care workers have for their clients, organizations acknowledge and support it.

To do so would ensure that such attachments are healthy and appropriate, and provide support for a worker’s grief when a beloved client dies.

Today, the love and affection workers feel is often forced underground, leading to stress and isolation for the worker, and could ultimately contribute to burn-out and turn-over.  

Can you imagine how relieved our health care workforce might be to have permission to love, and have support and supervision to do so every day, on the job, in the open?

How much might this improve care for the ill and our Elders?

 

Lisa Kendall is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with advanced certification in clinical gerontology who works in home care, has a private practice in Ithaca, NY, and is an “Eden at Home” Educator.  You can get more information on The Eden Alternative and Eden at Home at www.edenalt.org

Contact me if your organization would like to host an “Eden at Home” Certified Trainer Workshop!

 

When is a Crutch not a Crutch?

In our culture, we shrink from signs of weakness or disability, preferring to see ourselves and each other as strong and capable.

Often, the very tools that might keep us independent, such as a cane or walker, are refused because they seem to represent frailty.  In reality, these assistive devices can make walking safer and prevent falls, allowing the greatest possible independence!

I was thinking about how hard it is for many Elders to accept the need for a walker or cane, or even the use of a wheelchair for trips out and about, and how troubling it is that our society has such strong prejudices about the use of such devices.

Then I realized that I have held the same deep biases about self-care and doing the things I need to do to stay healthy and strong.

As a health care professional, I’ve learned the hard way that I have to practice what I preach about taking good care of my mind, body and spirit, or I won’t be able to care for my family, clients, and friends.

Photo by Nick J Webb via Flickr

  • Have you ever felt guilty about getting a massage, considering it a luxury rather than part of your stress management strategy?   
  • Do you take time to plan and enjoy healthy, nutritious meals?
  • Are you getting regular, enjoyable exercise?
  • Do you have hobbies outside of work or caregiving that delight and inspire you?

These things are not “crutches,” they are important tools to keep you healthy and strong and able to stay in service.  Give them the priority they (and you!) deserve, and schedule time for them in ink on your calendar.

We’ll continue to talk about this, because too many professional care partners and family caregivers are suffering from over-load and are vulnerable to stress-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Please write me a comment (below) to let me know what you will do to take care of your SELF this week!

"It's Just Stress"

It’s time to look more deeply into the very real impact of prolonged or severe stress on our physical and emotional health. If you have been caring for an ill Elder or other loved one, you are especially vulnerable to caregiver stress, which studies show can lead to depression or make you more prone to a range of chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. Read the rest of this entry »

Mandalas for Elder Caregiver Stress?

by Felipe Venâncio via Flickr

A few years ago I was preparing for surgery, and a therapist colleague suggested I get some Mandala coloring books to color during my recovery.

Mandalas are circular designs, often associated with Hindu or Buddhist meditation, and the designs can be quite intricate.  Once I started looking, I realized that many cultures from around the world have beautiful circular designs connected with their spiritual practices.

I was especially drawn to the more complex designs, and found that I felt serene and my mind seemed to calm while I filled in the tiny spaces with colored pencils, and it was also an easy, no-mess project to set aside if I got tired.

Once back at my caregiver counseling job, I started suggesting the idea to family members who often struggled to find ways to relax during their stressful days.  Several were very intrigued with the idea and immediately recalled long-unused art supplies or neglected coloring books already on-hand.

If you are taking care of an older or ill loved one, or are just looking for a way to calm your mind in the midst of a hectic day, try coloring Mandalas.  You can find the books through your local bookseller, local arts & crafts store, or print some pages online for free at  http://www.coloringcastle.com/mandala_coloring_pages.html

Let me know if this works for you, too!

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