As a CAREGiver for older people for the last seven years I've learned so much but one of the most valuable lessons is how different people value different things.
I can do lots of very practical tasks when I'm caregiving but I've discovered that one of the things my clients value the most is conversation.
It really is so special when an older person feels comfortable enough to talk to you about their life experiences, their families and their deepest feelings. To be truly listened to and appreciated is so important.
One of my lovely ladies, who is in her mid-90s, has started to talk about the end of her life... not in a morose way... she's very practical and has a deep faith so she's not afraid of death. Over the past few weeks I noticed how often she's brought the conversation round to 'not wanting to be here much longer' and one day I gently asked her about her thoughts.
I'm aware that it is hard for her to talk to her daughter about this sort of thing because she lives abroad and gets upset at the thought of not having her mum around anymore.
She said she is very aware that she is much slower than she used to be, her memory is not as sharp and she sometimes has difficulty finding her words. This is all very frustrating for her. She explained that having outlived two husbands, she is now on her own and feels that she no longer has a value. She's spent her life caring for others and is at a bit of a loss as to what her role on this earth is.We talked for over an hour and I was able to give her my perspective on the huge positive impact she still has on other people.
She is always looking out for others, often inviting them for coffee or lunch. She writes letters to people who she knows are lonely and she makes the lady who sells the Big Issue in the High Street smile every time she stops for a chat with her.
She always has time for people. Her kind, generous and compassionate nature is very much appreciated by the many people she continues to have contact with.
It was an honour as her caregiver to be able to tell her, hand on heart, that in my eyes, she is a truly inspirational person. I have learned so much from her, by listening and observing how she reaches out to others. She is truly self-less and has taught me many valuable life lessons about the type of person I want to be and how I want to be with others.
She is a wonderful encourager and tells me often that my visits are the highlight of her week. She makes me feel of huge value to her whether I'm helping her clear out a cupboard, going shopping or listening to her tell me about her past life.
I told her of the lovely memories I will always have of taking her and her late husband on holiday and how much I value her terrific sense of humour and perspective on life. I genuinely love going to see her and she holds a special place in my heart. She's like the granny I no longer have.
We sat quietly for a few minutes after we'd spoken and she reached out and held my hand.
Then she said, 'Thank you so much. I had no idea I still made a difference to people. I'm so lucky to have you come and visit me and I love that we can talk like this. It means the world to me. I feel that you really do understand me. You feel like family'.
It takes time to build a relationship that can result in a conversation like this... time well spent in my opinion. It gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction to be able to connect with someone at such a truly deep level.