By RHONDA BOLES
‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and accepting change
MOST OF THE TIME, I don’t know what our clients’ lives were like before they needed Covenant Caregivers.
When I meet our clients for the first time, there has usually been some mental or physical decline that causes them to seek our services. Our clients have led full, active lives. They’ve worked hard. They’ve reared families. They were strong, independent, vibrant people. But when I meet them, their day-to-day activities are vastly different from what they were 20 or 30 years ago. And with their changing mental and physical shape, their roles as people and as members of a family have also changed. They have gone from being parents to being parented by their adult children. Their physical activity has often diminished and because of this, they can’t do a lot of the activities that used to bring them great joy.
“Driving Miss Daisy” has always been a favorite movie, and it is a great example of the changes all families face. Miss Daisy is an energetic, self-sufficient woman struggling to accept the changes that come with her senior season. A minor car wreck forces Miss Daisy to quit driving, and her son hires a driver for her. Miss Daisy is determined to fight this change and refuses to let the driver, Hoke, take her anywhere.
After days of Hoke sitting in Miss Daisy’s kitchen and doing nothing, she finally relents and lets him take her to the Piggly Wiggly. Afterward, Hoke proudly reports to Miss Daisy’s son that he has finally succeeded in doing his job: “It only took me six days, same time it took the Lord to make the world.”
No family is immune to change. It is inevitable. We literally begin changing on the day we are born, and for most of our lives, change moves us forward. It allows us to grow. Change allows us to try new things and alter the course of our lives. But for the senior adult community, change is not always positive. For seniors like Miss Daisy, change is often feared because it takes away their most valuable possession: independence.
When I meet clients, it is usually because they have had an unwelcome change in their lives and everyone is struggling to deal with it. Change is hard for our clients and it is hard for the family members who love them. But the most difficult situations are the ones in which family members are unwilling to accept the changes that have occurred.
I have watched some of the most loving and concerned family members put their loved ones at risk because they refuse to accept changes that are occurring right in front of their eyes. They see acceptance as the equivalent of giving up or giving in. But I believe acceptance is exactly the opposite: Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance means taking an active role in making the best of the changes that have occurred.
We can’t stop the aging process but we can meet our seniors in their new phase of life and give them the tools and support that lead to peace and contentment. Acceptance is not surrender. Acceptance is a call to action. It is a desire to make the best out of a less than ideal situation, and it is the kind of attitude caregivers need from clients and the families who love them.
The strong, independent Miss Daisys in our world deserve dignity and compassion. But if the family members guiding their care won’t accept the changes that have occurred, we can’t give these seniors the quality of life they deserve.
Even though we don’t always see our clients during their vibrant years, we do want to know the history of the person who sits before us. We want to embrace the past and use it to make every day of their future a gift. And we need acceptance to make this happen. At some point, we will all have to accept the fact that there is more life behind us than ahead of us.
There is a cycle to life, and it takes emotional courage to accept and embrace life’s changes. Making a conscious decision to accept change preserves dignity, enhances quality and ultimately leads to contentment.
Rhonda Boles is the operations director for Covenant Caregivers in Madison, Mississippi. She can be reached at email@example.com or 601.856.5660.