There’s an ancient saying that states that one cannot understand another’s plight without walking a mile in their shoes.
On May 30th, Visiting Angels caregivers attempted to do just that.
Many of the hundreds of clients we serve are elderly. With age come certain joys to be sure. Sometimes we share in those joys. We are privileged to assist with the tasks of daily living for many. We become intimately acquainted with the needs and challenges of our clients. We are gentle, loving, and compassionate as we serve our clients. No matter how conscientious and caring it is difficult to truly know how our clients feel.
We wanted to gain a better understanding of the struggles many of our clients face daily. Our thoughts were to enhance our understanding, enlighten our minds and literally face some of the challenges our clients live each day.
The question was how?
First, we needed to identify those things we know to be problematic. There were three issues that face a majority of our clients; hearing deficient, visual impairment and difficulty with movement due to arthritis. Second, we wanted to simulate those conditions for our caregivers in order that they might experience, first hand, what our clients go through each day.
At our quarterly caregivers in-service training, we asked a caregiver to volunteer to, quite literally, age in place, right before our eyes. A volunteer was chosen. She put on ankle weights to simulate difficulty with mobility. Next she donned prescription sunglasses which distorted visual acuity. The caregiver then put in ear plugs to make hearing less acute. Finally, the caregiver donned a pair of oven mitts to limit agility.
As dozens of caregivers watched, simple instructions were given and simple tasks were laid out before the “aged” caregiver. A walker was put in front of the seated “aged” caregiver. She was asked to get up from the chair, use the walker to walk to a table and pick up a cup of water. The “aged” caregiver reported that she felt as though she “was walking in water” and she “couldn’t tell where the floor was” in front of her. The caregiver reported feeling frightened, in general, and specifically, reported that she was afraid she would fall. Her depth perception was not accurate; sound was muffled; her body was stiff and heavy and her fingers could not grasp the cup.
For the “aged” caregiver and the other caregivers, this was only a glimpse into what many seniors live with each day. The transformation, caused by the weights, glasses, gloves and earplugs, was stunning.
Our “aged” caregiver could remove all of these filters and go back to her comfortable life. Our seniors cannot. That is why we serve.
To volunteer: reach Julie at (301) 355-6578.