Once we start working with the elder, there is no going back


By Marianne Delorey

“Older Ladies,” a country song mixed with some funky yodeling sung by Donnalou Stevens, has recently gone viral across the Internet. She speaks about the various parts of her aging body that are less than perfect and then declares, “And if that’s the reason that you don’t love me, then maybe that’s not love.”

M.Delorey_headshotHer catchy tune presents a funny and upbeat picture of aging, one that we are less likely to see on mainstream media. Her message is simple: despite her age, she has much to give and if someone cannot appreciate what she still has, then she has no interest in being with them.

This is a lesson eldercare workers learned a long time ago. Somehow, we have all come to the conclusion that working with the elderly is a wonderful experience. We’ve come at it from many different directions, but the value in serving this population is not missed by any of us. Here are some quotes from those in the eldercare field:

•When I was younger, I was a candy stripper at the hospital. All of us wanted to work in pediatrics and I would never have guessed one day I’d work with the elderly. My first day working in an elderly building, I thought I’d never get used to the quiet. But now, I see all the excitement there is and working with this group really appeals to my nurturing side. I’d encourage people to work with the elderly, it is a great experience.

•I started in this field by accident, but now I’d never want to work elsewhere because of the payback. Not only do they tell me how much they appreciate what I do, but they show me by taking care of the apartments they have.

•It makes a big difference to some of the elders when you give them a few extra minutes of your time, especially if they don’t have families. Also, they have taught me not to be judgmental. Everyone makes mistakes, but how fair is it to hold someone to things that happened 30 or 40 years ago?

•I started in eldercare because I was taking care of my grandmother, and working in the industry helped me find more services for her. After she passed, I stayed in eldercare because it was fulfilling. I felt I could offer my skills and knowledge to help people navigate the system.

As for me, my story is simple. I had worked with the elderly before, but my first job out of college was cleaning carpets. I felt like it wasn’t enough, so I went to a local rest home to volunteer and as soon as I stepped through the door, I knew it was where I belonged. I used to explain that I am at home with people who are closer to death because they have a better appreciation for life. That is still true, but a more complete truth is that as Donnalou explains in her song, the best parts of a person are deeper than the surface, and once you train your eyes to see that beauty, there is no going back.

Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or mdelorey@colonyretirement.com and www.colonyretirementhomes.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.