Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Lighter Side of Caring for Elderly People

Are We Having Fun Yet,  Mrs Stoatgobbler?

Laughing so hard you pee your pants


- both easier to do, the older you get!

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of job vacancies advertised in the Aged-Care sector are now listing 'sense of humour' as one of the more desirable personal characteristics required from potential applicants.

Right up there alongside the usual skill-set buzzwords: compassion, empathy, time management, communication etc etc etc... it seems that a lot of care providers are recognising value in employing support workers who are capable of seeing the lighter side of their roles.

Not that we 'funny-bunnies' don’t consider our work with older adults as meaningful or important; no, quite the opposite.  In fact, more is the case where those who CAN take a joke (and don’t feel they have to take themselves so seriously all the time), end up with far greater job satisfaction as a consequence of receiving copious amounts of positive feedback from their much-amused clients!  

Because there’s definitely no doubting how beneficial humour can be when meeting an elderly client at their front door - especially for that harrowing first time.  Not meaning you need to perform party tricks and act the clown - more just in listening to your client, seizing the unexpected instances as they happen and utilising them to create a good positive bond.

You know... tell them the silly story about your wheelbarrow at home with the wobbly wheel or how your new kitten shredded the wooden legs off the sofa, and then let them share similar anecdotes with you.

We all know that there’s nothing like a good ol' laugh to improve overall wellbeing or to promote a good mood.

So as a carer working in your client's home, merely being observant and discovering what interests your client has, understanding what makes them tick... can make it a heck of a lot easier for you to angle your game plan accordingly.

Elderly with a sense of Humour

Laugh at yourself 

- is it keeping you SANE?

As a coping strategy, too, an intuitive carer should also understand the benefits of how a funny story or a witty one-liner can be tactfully used to distract a client who may be agitated that you have come and initially resistant to your charms.... "I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP, MISSY!"

In my experience, discretely changing the subject or injecting a fresh perspective into the conversation can diffuse most potential challenging behaviour before it gets a chance to gather momentum.

Just by sharing a refreshingly waggish viewpoint in an elder's mundane existence can be enough to crack even the hardest of old nuts (yes, a lukewarm smile still counts).  Achieve this and you'll gain trust and win them over before they've had a chance to realise how much they actually do like you!

The awkwardness of nudity at shower time is always a good test of a careworker’s inter-personal communication skills. But be brave, just chat away and show how you thoroughly enjoy the company of your new nude client, ever so much!

In fact, I'm often surprised, how even the most insignificant occurrence or ridiculous absurdity, can turn a stilted situation into a side-splitting giggle feast in an instant.

Take my new client from yesterday morning Mrs Gladys Liverspot, a frail and reluctant elderly lady who clearly felt annoyed that 'regular-girl-Angie' was not available to help her shower - and that she was ‘stuck' with me instead.

Oh, I'd attempted to initialise conversation for sure... I was bubbly... yet professional. I showed genuine interest in the new kitchen she'd just had installed... plus I'd admired the heck out of her grandson's never-ending pile of wedding photos.

But as we progressed through her showering regime I got nothing back from Gladys.  Instead, she seemed determined to remain cool and aloof.

That is, until it came time to wash her 'lady bits' and, as I do, I asked Gladys if she wanted help with that.

“Oh, you mean my Fanny-by-Gaslight!” 

Well, that was it!  Such a randomly unexpected thing to hear a little old lady say - I cracked up big time.

And blow me down... Gladys clearly LOVED me for it!  In fact she joined in too!

Seemingly, my hysterical response to her quirky turn of phrase was just the reaction Glad needed to accept me into her world.  It showed her that I understood her; that I was on her wave-length.  I could appreciate her out-dated comment and therefore I was worthy of being part of her day.

Before I left (and still giggling like school girls), I was rewarded with a nice cuppa and the ginger crunch slice that Gladys usually reserved for her special visitors.

So to you, 'regular-girl-Angie'...TAKE THAT!

Funny how people tick, don't you think?

Sharing a cuppa with elderly client

Big laughs

(and even bigger hair!!!) 

Ironically too, there are days where laughing at yourself can be all that keeps you sane.  Nothing like putting your foot in it with a slip of the ol' verbal faux-pas; those unintentional moments when you haven't thunk before you open your gob.  Ahhh, I know them well.

Here's a couple of my finest whoopsie-daisies:

Offering lovely Mrs Greensleeves (a left-arm amputee) to wipe down her bench top… 
“Can I give you a hand with that?”

Or saying “Gee that IS a big one!” …  the exact same moment Mr Wang drops his tweeds at shower time (I was actually referring to the giant mutant cactus plant towering outside his bathroom window, truly I was)

And just out of habit, to my new and totally bald-headed client…
Are we washing your hair today, Mr Wiggington?”

As soon as I pop these doozies out - I kick myself.  But at the same time, it shows I’m only human and, as unbelievable as it may seem, I make mistakes too!  Thankfully, all my clients (thus far) have forgiven me whenever I’ve let slip and more often than not, we end up having a bit of a cackle about it as well.

It’s all in the way you handle the situation and anyway, they know it was not intended.  I’m just happy that they can relax enough and feel at ease around me to have a laugh in the first place.

“Oh Dollie, you are a ONE”, they say.

And I guess I am.

Vicky-versa, I love those unexpected humorous one-offs that my clients can spring on me, too!

Incidental quips they throw in along the way like an out-of-the-blue remark that takes you by surprise and makes you realise that being old, doesn’t mean you are any less witty or wacky than the rest of us smarty-pant types!

And you are most certainly not laughing AT your clients; you are laughing either with them or it’s just the situation at the time when something comical has occurred.

Like the time I was applying lotion to the legs of a very fragile and diminutive, Mr Eddie Shuffleboard.

Sitting patiently on his bed one morning, I squatted in front of Eddie fiddling about with his unyielding compression stockings versus his clammy moisturised skin (the bloody things never want to play nice).  After battling away I finally managed to wrench the stockings into position on Eddie's legs and, from the sheer exhaustion of it all, I then went to plonk myself on the bed beside him.

As I landed on what had to be the world’s most springiest mattress, like something out of Cirque du Soleil... poor old Eddie went BOING!  Catapulted directly up into the air he ended up falling squarely onto my knee in a position similar to a toddler sitting on his mother’s lap.

Then, without missing a beat, he announced with the cheekiest smile on his face:

We really have to stop meeting like this, Dollie!” 

Surely one of the most hilarious moments I've experienced on the job and after chuckling our way through the rest of the shift, Eddie and I were most definitely from then on, the bestest of buddies.

Enjoy spending time with your elderly client

Just don't get sand in your crack!

(tee hee)

So don’t feel guilty about enjoying the funny side of your client’s antics or feel that you’re being disrespectful or insensitive to their needs...OH MY GOD, YOU DON’T CARRRRRE!

Because of course you do.

And besides, encouraging laughter during a tense or delicate moment can actually offer relief to a fraught pensioner who may find solace in seeing you appear so calm and unflappable.

Embarrassing little interludes too, can have the edge sliced off them with a nifty bit of light relief.

Like the time I went to assist the delightful Mr Reggie Windbottom out of his armchair, just as he let rip an extremely loud FART that startled us both and made his trusty border collie leap up onto the couch.

“Outside, Wally!” Reg and I both bellowed at the same time.  If in doubt, blame the dog.

Oh, how we laughed!

But most of all, and because it reminds me a lot of my own grandfather and the funny stories he used to tell us growing up... I love it how some of my elderly gents (never the ladies it seems) have a wide-ranging repertoire of good old-fashioned jokes that they love to rattle off whenever you visit.

For example, here’s a couple of pearlers from 92 year old Harry Jollywood, one of my favourite yarn-spinners.  Of course the Irish accent makes them that much funnier - even better when he has his teeth in!

Did you hear about Bruce who lost his whole left side?
- He’s al-RIGHT now.

What do you call a fly with no wings?
- A walk.

What time did Bob go to the dentist?
- Tooth hurt-y.

A mushroom walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender tells him to get out.  
The mushroom says, “But why? I’m a fun-guy!”

A blind man walks into a bar….and a table... and a chair… and a door... and and and...

To conclude folks, laughter may not be the best (and only) medicine your elderly client has to take,  but if you can lift spirits by slipping a bit of jocularity into their day, it’s a grand way to start.

As the irrepressible Mr Jollywood so eloquently likes to put it:

"If you can’t have a good laugh in life - then you’re just a miserable old sod!"

Adding some humour to an elderly persons day

It's all in the way ya tell it, Harry!


Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Cranky Old Man

A Poem That Makes Us Think About Ageing

(and that old people are people, too...)

I have to say, it's demoralising the number of my elderly clients who share with me that they can sometimes feel forgotten about in today's society.  To the point of actually being 'invisible' in the eyes of others as they potter along doing their thing, out and about in the community.

How at the supermarket where the checkout girl, even though she does her How-are-you-today spiel, makes no eye contact and nearly misses as she randomly plonks the change into yet another arthritic hand of some confused old bloke who's moving far too slowly and holding up her queue. 

Elderly at the shops

And how so many of the dear ladies I visit suffer feelings of low self-worth (verging on depression in some instances) from attending social events where they've come away believing they're not young or attractive enough to be acknowledged.  That they're no longer appealing to others and certainly not capable of ‘turning a man’s head’ as they once did when they walked into a room.  

Oh, they know they shouldn't base their entire emotional state on something so fickle as physical appearance, of course they do... but it still picks a hole in their confidence as a woman, regardless.

Or how in the midst of a treasured family gathering... it's easy to go ignored as the conversation heats up and, unintentional as it may be, silly old Mum is dismissed yet again for having any opinion of value to contribute or one that is worthy of being listened to. 

So she smiles and nods because she tells herself she’s so lucky at least, just to be there, surrounded by the people she loves. 

Nobody sees how the life that once defined who their mother was when she was young, has slipped further and further away.

I have always appreciated this poem - and I tear-up every time I read the dam thing!  

I love how simple it is and how it hits you with the realisation that our elders were once battling their way through this same journey called Life... with its highs and its lows; the good times and the not so good.  Ironing shirts... making lists... rushing off to work... shouting at the kids and paying the bills...

... just like us.

And it’s interesting that nobody seems very sure where it came from; or whether it was written originally about a cranky old MAN or a ‘crabbity’ old LADY. 

Some say it was written by a wise and empathetic nurse working in a care home. Others tell how a pensioner living, and then dying in the same facility, wrote it to be discovered by the staff after he’d gone.

I suppose in the end it doesn't really matter who wrote this most poignant ode about how the world perceives you once you are 'old'.  Just as long as we keep reading it (or in my case, crying at it) and perhaps if we are lucky, being inspired enough to learn from it too?

The very least you can do is pop round to Grandpop’s this afternoon for a hot milo and a chat about life... while he thrashes the pants off you in a few rounds of gin rummy!

But please have a read, whatever you do. 

Can't do any harm.

Look Closer   (The Cranky Old Man)   

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill.
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast.
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man.
Look closer . . . . 

..see ME!!

 - Author Unknown

Young Boys become Old Men

He wasn't always an old boy...


Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Hard & Dry Facts of Elderly Skin

"It seems the SKIN... that I'm IN... is terribly, terribly... THIN!"

Ever wondered why you never see a loofah brush, exfoliating mitt, nor any other type of abrasive body-scrubbing device in an old person's bathroom?  (That's not counting the mandatory piece of dried up pumice stone once used to file corns and callouses from feet ie: back when ones feet needed it).

Well, there's good reason for it.  Summed up perfectly by 89 year old Lizzy as I chatted to her during her shower last week:  

“At my age? Crikey, I'd end up skinned alive like a Chinese dog if I used one of those now!”

Old people dislike using SOAP

Prettier than what, I wonder?

Understandably, for most of the older adults I visit, their skin is a fairly pertinent issue.  They know only too well that if something new or unusual appears on their outer - there's a blimmen good chance that something more threatening may be happening on their inner.

Physiological changes such as connective tissue breakdown, the lessening of elastin and collagen production, a limited ability to retain moisture, plus an increasingly slower metabolism in general - all contribute to the breakdown of our skin's integrity as we age.  

And as a consequence of this dermal deterioration, we then get to watch in despair as the inevitable creases, folds and ridges creep leisurely onto our skin's surface to create that familiar 'old person' look... Come on, sing it with me now:  WRINKLES!

Throw in the exhaustion of the juicy subcutaneous fat layer beneath, too, means the natural oils which once protectedus from damage and gave skin it's firm, voluptuous appearance - are depleted.  Leaving elders with a moisture-less, thinned barrier that's vulnerable to anything untoward.

Oh yes, defenses by this stage, are most definitely down!  

Understandably, with skin that's this delicate and translucent, the absolute last thing a dear old soul like our Lizzy would ever consider doing as part of her shower routine, even if she might have done regularly in her decadent middle-aged years... is to slough off yet another (possibly the last?) layer from her precious epidermal.

Wrinkley old people

Of course, other contributing factors such as lifestyle, genetics and diet can also throw a pensioner's skin balance out of whack.  Interestingly, one of the major roles of our outer dermis is to maintain the body's natural thermostat.  Which explains why so many seniors seem to spend most of their days grumbling how cold they are, even in the height of a summer heatwave.

“Brrrr... shut the dam door, girlie!”

Progressing into our 'twilight' years, means we might also get to grow some unsightly skin tags, unflattering strangely-shaped moles and, prevalent on the backs of hands, balding heads, ears, arm, noses and necks... are the browny-coloured 'liver' or sun spots we immediately associate with 'being old'. 

These annoying tell-tale blemishes are a result of spending entire lives being hat-less and factor-less for long periods exposed to the outside elements.  And declaring “but we didn't know any better”, does nothing to fix the skin damage already caused.  

Sadly, it doesn't matter how much sunscreen Grandad coats himself in now, it's a case of too-little-too-late for these old timers.

Ahhh good times!

Good SKIN-DESTROYING times... 

And there are other less than delightful skin conditions we become more predisposed to as we age.   Dermatitis, eczema and pruritis are afflictions which are all identifiable with dry, ageing skin and will continue to drive itchy, older folk to reach for the tried-and-true camomile lotion by the gallon.

But flaky, scaly skin is a bad thing when you're an older peep because when skin has become so dry that it's now irritated and cracking open, there is opportunity galore for serious infection to enter and thrive it's head off.

With immunity already compromised in sick or frail seniors or those suffering with pre-existing health complaints, the skin, whose job as the built-in protection layer stopping the big bad germ-laden world from entering our bodies and making us unwell, becomes weakened and unable to hold ground when it's really needed most.

A seemingly small injury to a mature-ager's cutaneal areas (even the slightest scratch), if not treated appropriately, can easily lead to serious complications and a much longer recovery time leaving an elder either in hospital... or in a very, very bad mood!

Indeed, depending on the state of it - our skin can quite literally mean the difference between life and death!  

More significantly for an anxious pensioner, it can also mean the difference between remaining at home or being despatched to live in an aged-care facility... or the dreaded nursing home.

I get to observe a lot of elderly skin when I visit my clients at this stage of their lives. Assisting them to shower and maintain regular hygiene habits is integral to self-esteem, dignity and indicative to the rest of the world (ie: suspicious adult children) that they're still capable of living independently.

And although not medically trained, an experienced carer can become quite astute in recognising symptoms of potential health issues, merely by observing the condition or noting even slight changes in a naked senior's skin - especially at shower time.

Bruises, for example, can be discovered during Personal Care shifts and might be the result of a fall, walking into the coffee table – or possibly from something more sinister? A quick mention here regarding Elder Abuse and that ALL suspicions of such should be reported immediately and without hesitation.

Haematoma (bruising) can look dreadful on pale elderly skin and thanks to sluggish metabolisms, may take months to totally heal and fade. Not helped by certain medications used to control inflammatory conditions so common in old age (stiff joints, arthritis, COPD, diabetes etc) which, as a pesky side-effect, can leave seniors exceptionally prone to bruising.  

Such as one of my clients, 75 year old Hilary who relies on steroidal drugs to control symptoms of her advancing emphysema.  These powerful meds offer a fabulous quality of life and are literally life-saving for someone like Hilary.  

More importantly (she informs me), they allow her to be top of her game on the golf course!  

BUT... it was discovered recently, that Hilary's skin had in fact become so thinned and susceptible to even the slightest touch that something as silly as the seam on her new golf slacks is enough to cause extensive black and blue marks down both her shins.  

I mean, did you EVER?

elderly skin is thin

Another shin, another bruise for Hil


For obvious reasons, assisting a senior to wash their outer body involves common sense, a good bit of empathy and patience... plus a WHOLE LOTTA care and attention.  Jagged fingernails or solid objects such as jewellery, rings etc can inflict catastrophic damage to paper-thin skin – and often with very minimal force applied.

Cringe-worthy is the story about a carer once who, worrying about getting to her next job on time, ripped an enormous gash in her client's calf while attempting to yank up his support hose (commonly used to control circulation probs in the lower limbs). In her haste, she hadn't realised the tag on the garment had accidentally embedded itself into the poor old gent's skin which then sliced deeply all the way up his leg as she pulled.

Ooooo... I FELT THAT!

Which explains why some of my more delicate ladies fear using a standard flannel or wash cloth that the rest of us ruffians take for granted.  Instead, they prefer to wash with a tiny square of baby muslin or light-weight sponge, both of which seem so floaty and flimsy - you wonder if it's worth bothering! 

There's certainly no RUBBING or SCRUBBING involved.  Just a lot of gentle circles and tender dabbing to ensure their sensitive aged skin is left suitably cleansed, and more importantly - unbroken.

Thankfully, it turns out that the older you get, the less cleansing your skin actually requires.  With retirement marking an inevitable slump in physical activity, there are now far less occasions to get a big 'sweat-up' like we once might have.  Common thought now is that it's more than adequate for a senior to instead shower every other day (or less), thereby allowing natural oils in the skin a chance to replenish and build resistance against all the nasties.

"And so I can get my GLOW on!" as one of my lovely ladies, Gladys, puts it.

Funnily enough, Gladys swears by sweet almond oil as her choice of showertime lather – and NEVER soap. 

"Because soap is too harsh and leaves me dry and rashy and itchier than an old woollen jumper".  

Which is fair enough when you're 95 years old and you've been doing it long enough to know! Admittedly, the almond oil (which smells devinely like christmas pudding) does leave Gladys' skin noticeably well-nourished and moist.  

Although, as she holds my arm stepping out of the shower, I have to plant my feet firmly to keep us both steady... she's as shiny and slippery as an eel!

Wrinkles a common sign of ageing

(...but not too hard)


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

We Love You, Harry High-Pants!

Can You Tell a Man's Age by the Height of his Trousers?

My elderly neighbour Ivy, recently shared with me this gorgeous black-and-white of her hubby Robert wearing a costume his mother made for him when he was just a young lad.

While not sure of the exact year, Ivy believes it to be sometime during the 1940's "when The War was on and we had to make do with what we had".

Couldn't you just die?

Old Men start young with Pants High

Hey, Superman...


Adorable as it most definitely is, it’s hard not to miss the extremely elevated pair of buckled-up underpants that Superman aka Bobby aged five, is sporting in the photo.

(Gee, the poor kid had no chance!)

It explains too, why the now 82 year old Bob clearly has no qualms with wearing his trousers as high as an elephant’s eye to this very day.  Undoubtedly, it's what he grew up with, feels comfy in and it's how he (and Superman) were raised.

Which is fair enough when you consider the fashions of the time.  Their time.  Back in the day with big screen stars like Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck & co - all swanning about, gushing masculinity (well, most of the time) and looking suave as all heck in their tall tweeds.  When the trend for the dapper man about town, was to do likewise and don a stylish pair of pleated high-waisted pants just like their hunky Hollywood idols.

And always with a belt.

To be fair, I'm not sure if Bob's always worn his trou so alarmingly aloft or whether it's been more out of necessity due to the changes in his body-shape since morphing into Retiree status.

Regardless, I can't help but smile when I catch sight of him over the back fence, digging away obliviously in the vege patch with his oversized corduroys yanked up nice and snug.  There's just something endearing... a special 'grandfather' appeal, that brings on warm family memories and makes you almost feeeel the love.

You know?

Old people wearing high trousers

Who wouldn't wanna look as dishy as this? 

Indeed, the ageing process (and the heartless science that goes with it) has a lot to answer for.

We tick merrily along minding our own business and before you know it,'ve arrived unwittingly at the mature, sensible-shoed stage of life.  Then, before you can say "pass the lamingtons please"... our once lithe and limber waistlines have become noticeably thickened.

Or in some cases, they've disappeared completely eeek!

Because fat is harder to budge like it was in the slinky, middle-aged career-building years when there was a lot of rushing about to be had.  Subsequently, with slowed-down metabolism from too much sitting about making shopping lists and tutt-tutting about the youth of today, an elder's torso can evolve into what's considered 'portly' or become barrel-like instead.

Some older blokes (much like our Bob), take on this new physical development fairly positively, thank goodness.  They're just relieved to be able to mold their newly created fatty layer into a nice protruding paunch.  Then, if they're any good, they'll find it enables them to wrench trousers up over this new formation like a natural built-in hitching post.

Alternatively, you'll find other elderly gents may opt to ignore this 'battle of the bulge' by tightly clasping their belts in from underneath,  allowing one's belly to flop leisurely out over the top of the belt-line yet still in the vicinity of where they think their waist should, by golly, still be.

Either way, win-win?

Furthermore, while we are busy increasing in age and much worldly wisdom, our bodies start to progressively dwindle in muscle mass as well.  Crikey, can it get any worse?

Meaning the once sexy and toned definition we all once aspired to (and strived like ninnies for), begins to diminish. Add to that a lessening bone density, then watch in awe as we then begin shrinking in height, thanks to our bodies basically collapsing into themselves.

Yes, you heard.... COLLAPSING.

Throw in the nicely rounded butt that’s served a chap all his years, literally upping and disappearing on him almost overnight.  For goodness sake, it's basically just a complete anatomical reversal of the changes that happened during puberty that turned us into adults in the first place!

But wait... THERE'S MORE!

Eventually, after a lifetime of all this standing about looking fabulous and ‘being a man’ (and when he’s finally admitted defeat and accepted this appalling thing called Retirement) a bloke's spine now starts to buckle and bend until his body is baggy and saggy and then lo and behold, before he knows it...his bloody pant bottoms are now dragging on the ground.


All that being said, and maybe because it happens so gradually, the changes in an older man's stature can often go unrecognised.  Which means most of my male clients are happy as Larry continuing blithely on wearing the same trousers they've had, like, for-EVER.

Amusing though, are some of the excuses I hear from these denying Larries:

“Well I’ve worn these slacks since that Armstrong lad walked on the moon and never had any bother with them”

“Top quality pants these, not like the cheap foreign rubbish you get in the shops now”

“These trousers have lasted me 36 years as a copper on the beat, so why would I go changing them now?”

Besides, the focus now as it is for many adults of advanced years, is less on how they look in their clothes, than on more pertinent issues such as the managing of increasingly frequent health issues, the price of bread or more essentially… what the weather is doing tomorrow.

Old Men Wearing their Pants HIgh
Can you can really judge a man's age

by how far up his britches sit?

No.  Of course you can't determine a man's precise age based solely on how up-lifted he prefers to position his trousers. But it's certainly easy to spot the more senior old boys when they do yank 'em up so excessively.  Out and about in the community, bustling along with great purpose and leaving no room for doubt that the higher the pant - the more important their mission.

Be it a morning stroll to buy the newspaper, or heading off with wheeled trolley in tow for a lap of the shops or maybe another load of library books.  It doesn't matter the quest, just as long as his dungarees are tugged up securely and with as much altitude as practicable.

So if you're one of these elderly dudes with The Incredible Shrinking Body who's looking to correct the state of his seemingly enlarged trousers in a fashionable, yet dignified manner - it seems you have limited options:

  • Revive an old trend and use suspenders to hold up your pants (because tightly clenched belts produce such an awful puckered affect)
  • Admit defeat and consider wearing a sarong-type garment to emphasise your cultural side. Or maybe fly free n easy in a Scottish kilt for that 'European-and-I-canny-care' look.
  • Give the modern day trackpant a whirl (built in elastic totally eliminates the belt dilemma)
  • Face facts and get your pants altered by a tailor (or a wife if you still have one)
  • Stop being a tight bastard and splash out on some new slacks that fit you properly!

Or if none of these appeal and you couldn't care less about where your waistline might have run off to... then hoist those sails high, my good fellow, and continue blissfully wearing your trustworthy gabardines of yesteryear.

Who gives a toot what these young whipper-snappers say, as they swagger about with bum-cracks hanging out of their low-slung designer denims.  You go right ahead and jack your nipple-cinching pantaloons up to your armpits if you fancy... right where they so magnificently belong.

All I know is, when I arrive at a client’s home and I’m greeted at the door by yet another darling pensioner with his shirt tucked firmly into his slacks (or sometimes a pair of no-nonsense walk-shorts on warmer days) hoisted above and beyond, almost to chest height... for some reason it just makes me want to be even nicer.


Modern day Superman with low pants

-  Modern-day Superman 

(riding a lot lower, thankfully)


Saturday, 1 July 2017

Top 10 Tips: Meeting an Elderly Client at Their Home For the First Time

Be Brave and Make Your Initial Introduction Count!

Knocking on the front door of a client's home for the first time is always an anxious few seconds, but understandably even more nerve-racking if you are a newbie to the caring caper.

In fact, I recall the day of my first shift ever... standing at the top of the steps, staring at a stranger's doorbell (of someone I would shortly be helping undress for their shower) and wondering if it was not too late to turn and run for the hills!

I remember too, thinking how I hadn't really been forewarned on the reality of what to expect when arriving at a skeptical senior's house for our first meeting.  I knew that I needed to be confident and professional in order to gain trust, but it turned out to be instinct I relied on to provide my client with a warm friendly vibe that put them at ease. 

I wanted them to know that not only was I was good at my job, but I was genuinely kind, empathetic - and that I CARED too.

Luckily for me, my first client was the most adorably grateful old gent who didn't give a toot that I was a learner.  He was just so relieved to have me there.  Which I guess at the end of the day is what it's actually all about... THEM.

And NOT you!

So I thought it might be helpful to list some essential, yet often under-appreciated pointers, to ensure the inital meet 'n' greet with your new elderly client is as successful as it can possibly be. That brief, but impressionable moment where you get to reveal your amazing self and to plant the seed for a future (hopefully) mutually respectful working relationship.  

Although take note: if your client suffers from any form of memory loss issues, you may be repeating these steps all over again - and again - and again......every time you visit them.

But that's no problem to an exceptional carer as yourself, is it?

Aged Care Worker Visits
Ding Dong, 
anyone home?

1.   Face them head-on with a big fat SMILE.
Appearing at your client's door with the cheeriest face you can muster, will often be enough to knock the wind out of a potentially bad-tempered elder’s sails.  Include a hearty 'smile' in your voice as well to hopefully nip a grumpy mood in the bud before they've had a chance to remember what they were cross about in the first place! 

Trust me, it works a treat - and what have you got to lose?  

2.   Use Formal Address - ALWAYS.
Make a promise to yourself as an accomplished carer, to always use your client’s official title - especially for that initial meeting eg: "Hello Mr Smith/Mrs Jones".  Older generations were bought up believing that this is an integral sign of respect - and it's never to be messed with.

If you are unsure of their marital status (you will come across the odd hard-nut spinster out there who’s never married but who will soon let you know if you dare assume she’s a Missus) -  in this case, it’s best to opt for the full name approach 

For example:  “Hello... Marjorie Brown, is it?”

And as daunting as it may seem, you should always attempt to pronounce your client’s surnames too.  Even the culturally curly ones that contain just about every letter in the alphabet!

I will never forget standing outside Mrs Gina Kantezkantopituolos’s front steps in a cold sweat at the thought of insulting her by stuffing up her name and having her hate me forever.  She actually confided in me later that she’d appreciated me having a crack (as feeble as it was) because most people never even tried.  

She'd eventually become known as ‘Mrs K’ anyway, "for efficiency's sake", she said.

Fortunately, 'Gina' and I eventually got on so famously she insisted I call her by her first name.  Phew...problem solved.

3.   Introduce Yourself - CLEARLY.
You'll discover as you become more experienced and worldly, that some of your more frail or unwell clients may have whole armies of carers, case managers, nurses, health workers, specialists and home support people galore coming and going to their home on any given day of the week. 

So to avoid confusion or client embarrassment it is vital that you clearly state your name, rank and serial number when you meet for the first time.  That is before you launch into your work.  

That is - tell them where you are from and what you intend to do to them!  

There is nothing worse than arriving with your bucket and mop to do a Domestic Assistance duty - only to turn round and discover your client has stripped off down to her petticoat in anticipation of having a wound dressing changed by who she thought was the District Nurse instead.  

Whoops!  Awkward....much.

Elderly people receceiving home services

And who are you, Dear??? 

4.   Determine if your elderly client UNDERSTANDS you
This is not as silly as it sounds.  And an experienced careworker can determine a lot about someone who appears to be hard of hearing or can’t comprehend what is happening (ie: knows what you are babbling on about).  

You’ve got several logical explanations:
  • your client is deaf (the obvious and most common one)
  • your client's English isn't flash 
  • your client is unwell - mentally or physically
  • your client is in a very, very, very bad mood  ( it too late to run away?)

The answer for all of these situations is to slow your speech down, maintain eye contact and modify your voice and tone accordingly. You can find out later on when you are friends, what the real story is. 

Use hand actions if you need to and don’t be afraid to yell.  I can spend entire days bellowing at older adults who have hearing issues.  Then I come home at the end of the days only to continue the trend with my poor family...sorry, boysies!

5.   COMPLIMENT your Client
One of the best bits of never-fail advice I can offer any carer (or anyone wanting to make somebody like you) is that you need to find at least one thing about your new client to compliment them on.  

Just something, whatever it is.

It could be that their hair or make-up looks nice; you love the sparkly bits on their handbag; their pretty-coloured lippy or you notice the cute pearl buttons on their beige cardigan. 

Or, if you are struggle to find something personal to say about your client, then admire the lovely photo of their grandchildren instead... or the beautifully manicured lawn... or the fabulous blooms on their camelia bush.   

Old people feel proud and pleased with themselves when they are told they have something that others might appreciate or find attractive.  It has huge impact and lets them know they are valued and more importantly - that they are a person, too!  

Plus it’s a superb way to break the ice and show that you at least seem interested in them. 

Who knows, you might even CARE for goodness sake.

Elderly people love Camelias
Gee, look at the gorgeous 
colour on YOU!

6.   Acknowledge your client’s SPOUSE
As an observant careworker, it’s important to be aware that your new client may live with a spouse (or other family member). These onlookers can offer valuable insight on the person whom you may be about to shower or spend time with in, say, a Respite capacity (to allow their regular family member ie: caregiver, to get some time away from the house).

It is in your best interests therefore, to completely suck up to these people (in a good way) and get them on side. These peeps will have a plethora of useful information about their mum or dad that will make your job significantly easier if you take heed of it; information that you won’t find on the Care Plan or in the medical notes.

For example:  
  • "Mum only likes using the pink towels… never the green ones as they were Dad’s towels and she will get upset if you try and use them for her shower." 
  • "When you take Uncle Reg on his walk to the library… he loves going via the paddock so he can say hello to the horses on the way.  He needs to stick to this routine or he will get quite upset and then we will ALL pay later!"
Little things like that, but it's important stuff. And it's what will help you develop a good healthy rapport and eventually, a trusting relationship with your client - and their family.

7.   Acknowledge PETS
Older adults just LOVE it when you show interest in their animals.  And I can guarantee you, every time a coconut... they will instantly like any carer who does this.  

I’ve broken down many a barrier by patting mangy old dogs, admired ugly weepy-eyed cats and even whistled at the odd tatty budgie in its cage. 

Fake it til you make it, don’t they say? 

It’s definitely worth it in the end, so do whatever it takes - scratch flea-bitten ‘ol Yella behind the ears, win over the confidence of your brand new judgmental client… you can always disinfect the hell out of yourself in the car later!

Old people love their pets
But Mrs Stevens, Billy hasn't moved in over an hour...

8.   LISTEN to your client
Every legendary aged-carer knows that Communication is what it’s all about. Speaking, but also – listening.  So when you’ve rattled off your initial intro, make sure you take the time to hear what your new client has to say in response.  

And if their speech is slow or they are struggling to get words out (for whatever reason) - DON’T be tempted to talk over them or pre-empt their sentences. 

Show patience and be respectful to whatever they are telling you. 

Be open-minded and NEVER make judgement. 

Sounds a bit like the Ten Commandments really…Thou shalt not Pass Judgement on thy old client! 

Let’s face it; most of this is common sense.  

Isn’t it?

An astute careworker can evaluate a lot about a new client in that initial meeting at the door.

Body language, the way they talk, their hearing and vision, their coordination and mobility – all can reveal potential physical health problems, mental conditions or even emotional issues.  All situations that are handy for you to be aware of even before you’ve entered their home - and their life.

Take note of bloodshot or droopy eyes, the condition of their skin, breathlessness, disorientation or confusion, complaints of pain and weakness can all mean something is not right and as their carer you will need to investigate further.  If only to pass it on by reporting your observations to a supervisor for further assessment or review.

Unfortunately, not only can you hear and see signs but you can smell them too. Take note of cigarette smoke, gas, rotting food odours (ick) or stinky human excrement smells (double ick) … these are just a few indications of the way your beloved senior lives and that there may be serious health problems afoot. 

10.  YOU'RE IN!
Well done, great job...  Go, you good thing!  You’ve passed the strip-search and interrogation stage and your new client has allowed you to enter their world.  

So keep up the excellent work, maintain pride in what you do, trust your little voice (always) ...and HEAVEN HELP YOU NOW.



Working with elderly people

It seemed like such a good idea at the time...