As a geriatric case manager, I learned some years ago that words are not always the best way to establish trust with my frail elderly clients.
In order to facilitate services for my clients, they must feel comfortable with me and trust my recommendations for their health and safety issues.
I’ve found that loneliness is a frequent companion for elderly clients when contacts have shrunken to a small group of family and medical professionals.
The solution to overcoming some clients’ resistance came when I added a new partner to my business seven years ago.
Dixie, a small Maltese dog, provides the perfect therapy for my clients. She is tactile and soft for fragile hands to stroke. She loves giving kisses to my clients in nursing homes and hospitals.
The first time I took Dixie to a skilled nursing facility we visited with Gloria. I found Gloria slumped in her wheelchair locked in depression. I pulled a chair up next to her and started chatting quietly, but there was no response. I told her I had brought a little friend to visit, and placed Dixie on her lap. Dixie curled into a small warm circle and settled in.
Gloria, with her head still down, opened her eyes. She raised both fragile arms and rested her hands on Dixie’s head. She was talking to the pup as she slowly turned towards me. We were able to talk about how she was feeling, and how much she missed her dog who could not accompany her to the facility. I wheeled Gloria out into the garden to say good bye. She seemed transformed by the gentle contact with Dixie.
In the seven years since Dixie has come into my life she has visited many frail, elderly clients with me. She seems to intuitively know how to adjust her energy for each occasion; sometimes silly and playful and other times she is still and respectful. She brings her energy to their level. She is never wrong. I have listened to dying clients whisper confidences to Dixie that they would never have shared with me or a family member.
Dixie knows their secrets…but she’s not telling.
Joyce Webber is a Geriatric Case Manager. She may be reached at (707) 874-9039.