An experience I had this month, attempting to read the chosen book for my book club reminded me of an important issue when dealing with our clients. We are quick to label them as "part of the silent generation" or "stubborn" or "sweet." But how well do we actually know them as individuals? Each has their own personal history, experiences, joys and traumas.
I managed to read ten pages of an excellent book: The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan. It is a book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of two families. The subject matter brought up too many difficult and conflicting memories of my life in Israel, and I chose not to read on. My gut reaction to this experience was - Do I know my clients well enough to be able to predict what book will be their ten-pager? There are many triggers in our lives that bring back good and bad memories. The older we get, the more memories we have, and the more potential triggers. We ourselves are not always aware of what might evoke these memories.
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When working with our clients, we often focus on the here and now, on checklists and specific goals. This may be necessary, to ensure that we address the issues that they bring to our attention, but we may lose the opportunity to truly get to know them.The outcome is that we may inadvertently provide less than optimal care. A very concrete example comes to mind: A client of mine, with mild dementia, was getting up at three in the morning. His physician recommended a medication to help him sleep. As I got to know the client better, he shared that most of his working life he had worked the night shift. This helped us to decide not to give him the medication. We did allow him to get up at whatever time he wanted, but his caregivers kept him up and active in the early evening, to encourage him to sleep through the night.
We do need to be aware that some of our clients may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that the effects of trauma can be passed on to the second or even third generation. We know that living through traumatic experiences such as war, physical and sexual abuse, kidnapping and natural disasters can leave psychological scars, but can also make people more resilient and able to cope with stress as they age. Any number of triggers can invoke memories or bring on flashbacks or other symptoms.
Does this mean that if I can only read ten pages of a book (or choose to read only ten pages of a book), then I have PTSD? No, at least not according to the clinical criteria. Like all of us, and all our clients, I do have some sensitivities. It is important for us all to take these sensitivities, memories, weaknesses and strength into account when working with our clients, and aim to get to know them well enough so that we can do our best for them.
call (626) 437 5530 - Brenda