Some time ago, one of our residents, a beautiful lady who was over ninety years of age told me about her ardent desire to meet someone and marry him, she had never being married, and this feeling palpitated in her heart as strong as when she was twenty. She would talk to me about her life’s regrets, and her accomplishments and her current wishes as if she wasn’t bound to a bed, and a few days away from her ultimate promotion. Her mind unaffected by seniority was as sharp as a whip with a dose of sassiness. Standing by her side looking into her deep blue eyes, I could not help to think about the strength of the human spirit, and the living soul within us that doesn’t age.
Conversing with her refreshed my mind. I learned more and more about our inherit desire to love and be loved, to be recognized, to be admired, to be accepted, to have a sense of participation and belonging. These feelings are intrinsic to a human and they won’t ever leave us. As I write this, it comes to my mind the many conversations I have had along these lines with many residents; some of them are able to express themselves eloquently as this lady did, while others find different ways to express themselves and communicate their mind, but the message is the same. I am sure I am not the only one who has this kind of interactions with the residents.
I have learned that it is in the response to these conversations that we bring dignity to a person.
Caring with dignity in this context might sound difficult to translate into actions. We often talk about it, but how does it really look like? This is a question worth exploring; and the answer might be less complicated than we think.
Dignity is our inherit value as humans that cannot be measured because of its immensity. We are individually valuable, and the sanctity of life is precious. Yet, each one of as has an individual perception of our value, and since we are sociable, it is our community that gives us this perception.
In the past few decades, our society as our main community has made this value conditional to our level of achievement. We feel more dignified or valuable when we are young and strong, because we are more productive. When we are sick, or sad, or when we don’t have control over our lives, or when we don’t feel we belong we feel less dignified, less valuable. As we age our individual perception of ourselves changes because we feel less productive. Almost as if we our value is based on our performance, this is not true. We are valuable just by being. But the question remains, how do we bring dignity to a person? I think many of you are doing it just great. Yourcare with dignity is expressed when you take time to listen to the residents; when you help them from the bed to the chair while you tell them of your day, or ask about theirs; when you take seriously their concerns even if they seem irrelevant; when you help them achieve any task; when you listen about their lives, and then remember the conversation; when you turn to attend them as you pass by; when you give them medication with a smile and encouraging words, when we give them responsibilities… these and many more actions let them know that they are here, that they belong, that we trust them, that they are important… and their perceived value/dignity increases. Let’s continue to do it from the heart.