(Last week’s post was on the love we eldercare professionals have for the people we serve, and whether the “L-Word” is appropriate. You can check it out here.)
As with the relationships between professional caregivers and clients, the “love” among seniors in a caregiving community can take on different forms.
The first kind of love to come to mind is probably the romantic love that involves hand-holding, kissing, and dancing cheek to cheek. I bet most people love hearing about stories like the Wedding of the Century to be held at Golden Living Center of Charlotte on Valentine’s Day. Of course, we might have a wider range of feelings when considering older adults’ sexual relationships, especially relationships between people who have dementia. I won’t delve into those deep waters today, but for more on that topic/debate/controversy, I recommend checking out this article.
Another important kind of love, though, is similar to what we professionals have for our clients – the compassion and care for another person that is profound and meaningful, even without the romance. Call it “friendship,” call it “neighborly love,” or just stick with “caring” and “compassion” – these are all feelings that we need to give and receive to be healthy human beings.
This Is Important.
All of us have a need for love and belonging, but our older adults may have a more difficult time getting it. Think about it – most seniors have probably lost more than one of the people who gave them love throughout a lifetime. You can probably think of several people who are now alone after decades of marriage, or whose friends have all passed on, or who have lost children or grandchildren, or who can no longer attend their church, or who had to move from their hometown to a senior living community closer to the kids. They’re starting over in developing those meaningful relationships.
The need to cultivate loving friendships is greater for our seniors.
We Can Help!
To maintain professional boundaries, we can’t really be the friends, lovers, or neighbors that our clients may need (although we certainly have meaningful relationships), but we can do a lot to help new loving friendships to develop. Some of our seniors are perfectly capable of building friendships without our help, but many need some support.
How do we do that? In music therapy, as in many professions, the umbrella term we use is “socialization.” We want to promote socialization, and the quality of the socialization matters. Our elders need more than just sharing the same living space and sitting at the same dinner table.
How do you promote meaningful socialization among the seniors you serve? How do you help your folks to develop loving friendships with other elders?
In my next post, I’ll offer some ideas of my own, in the following four categories:
- Structure the environment to foster positive relationships.
- Help seniors get to know each other.
- Help seniors give to each other.
- Help seniors care for each other (and don’t get in the way).
Your challenge is to think of the ideas/activities/interventions/methods that you use to help with each of these areas. Please share your comments below, and you may see your name in the next post!