By Marta Street, Certified Concierge Care Advisor
As advisors, we have the privilege to walk alongside our clients, often in times in crisis. All our families are important, but there are some that touch our lives personally. This summer there have been a few that have personally touched my life and have changed how I look at the service I provide. The names are fictitious, but the experiences are real.
As a “mature” person myself, it is eye opening to me when I’m working with a family member that is looking for support that is my age. It is a reminder of how fragile life can be sometimes. Harry, 63, had significant dementia along with other health issues. His wife at the young age of 59 could no longer care for him safely. The stress of this decision weighed heavily on this wife. She felt like she was giving up and being selfish even though her health was declining too. We spent many hours just talking about what they had hoped for at this stage of their life together. A bond was built between us, and it didn’t stop the moment he moved into his new home. A call came late one evening that Harry was in the emergency room and she was scared and didn’t know what to do. I sat with her and talked with Harry and once stable, we took Harry back to his new home (by way of McDonalds). This transition was challenging for all concerned. Together with the care team we came up with a plan for all parties to be successful. Harry is now thriving in his new place and his wife is able to just be his wife, and it has improved their relationship as well. It really takes a village to have success.
Then there is Bob. Bob was also young. During our first meeting, we had such a special connection. We laughed together as he shared tales of his many travels, his grandmother who was an entertainer, his love of music and TV shows we both liked. Bob had no family and was very ill with a very limited time left in his life. He was scared and shared that with me as well. As a team, we found a wonderful adult family home for him. That team loved Bob and met him where he was. Sometimes he wanted to talk, other times he wanted to be alone. I was sent a picture of him petting a miniature horse with a huge smile on his face. He shared with the caregiver that even though he was still scared, he was at peace. The nurse at the Adult Family Home kept me informed of how he was doing. Sadly 5 days into his stay, I received a text that said he was not going to be with us much longer. I went and sat at his bedside with him in his final hour. After a bit, he made it clear that it was time for me to go and that he wanted to be alone. The nurse and I talked for a while and shared stories and prayed that Bob would have a peaceful journey home. Shortly after, he passed away. I will never forget this sweet and gentle man. He taught me a valuable lesson about unconditional love.
For me, this is more than a job, it is a calling. As advisors, we get to see wonderful successes as we help people transition into a better life. Where they were once very isolated and alone, they find community and friends again. They no longer need to worry about the day-to-day tasks of cooking and cleaning, but get to spend their time doing things that bring them joy. It is so heartwarming to talk with a family a month later and they tell me how grateful they were for the help and advice we offer. Many times, the families are surprised at how much easier things went than they expected. Those calls are fun!
There are also those times when you can give comfort to those that are at the end of their life journey. To be able to give support at the worst time of their life, losing a parent or spouse, is something very special. Today was one of those days. Jane lost her mom last week. I called her to check in and see how she was doing. After we cried together, we started to laugh as well. She shared with me the blessings she felt as she talked about the last few months of her mother’s life. And the joy she was able to witness as her mom chatted with the other ladies at the kitchen table drinking tea. And I reminded her that she gave her mom a treasured gift as well, as she gave her the opportunity to have companionship again. Jane got to spend the last few months just being mom’s baby girl. These are memories that she will be able to hold on to for the rest of her life.
Change is hard. Asking for help is even harder sometimes. As children and spouses of our aging loved ones, it is hard to let go and let someone else do the heavy lifting. I understand, I’ve been there. The moral of the story I guess is this: We do not have to walk this life alone. There are not a one size fits all solution. Everyone is different, and it is a special experience to help others walk this path.
This really is a “heart” job for me. Ministry if you will. I continue to be humbled by these experiences as I stand back and see how much courage these families have as they navigate a challenging time in their life. Thank you to those who have let me serve you. It is my pleasure, and I look forward to many more years of meeting truly amazing people.