When 2021 started, I made the following resolutions in my New Year's blog...
I am not going to make myself sick over my own self-imposed deadlines.
I am going to establish better boundaries with myself and my clients.
I am never going to cook or bake when I am exhausted…unless I really do want a visit from my local fire department for the entertainment value. 🤣
Fortunately, I was able to stick to #3 ... no kitchen fires this year! Last year's holiday explosion in my oven was one I really don't need to ever relive thank you very much. I mean, I still had the occasional mishap in the kitchen...a garbage disposal back up that caused a small flood was equally painful to deal with but at least I can say it wasn't my fault. Things break...and usually at 10 pm when you really don't want to be mopping up tons of water...ugh!
Anyway, as far as #1 and #2 are concerned?...
I definitely did better this year with maintaining more balance between work and play and setting distinct boundaries with clients but I think both of those will always be a work in progress. I just don't think it is possible to say I will never stress over a deadline or not show great compassion for clients. If I did I wouldn't feel human especially regarding how I interact with my clients.
With that said, I recently worked with a 95-year-old woman who had moved to independent living earlier in 2021 but still needed to empty out her house and get it on the market to sell sooner rather than later. When we initially spoke I could tell that she was suffering from severe paranoia and dementia and my "Action Girl" mode immediately kicked into high gear. I knew better than to think I could "fix" her but it didn't stop me from reaching out to the social worker at the independent living facility to ask about her situation.
Clearly, she needed to be in assisted living or even memory care but there were no rooms available at this particular facility and it didn't seem like they were particularly motivated to help get her placed elsewhere. They told me they had called Adult Protective Services a few times to try to get a court-ordered legal guardian but she managed to pass their competency test. I'm sorry, but what 95 year old's needs should be based on a competency test? I get that we don't want to take away any of her civil liberties but...COME ON...she's 95 freaking years old and from what I've seen and heard is not "independent". She has been wheelchair-bound for almost two months and cannot stand without assistance and I'm not sure how she is bathing herself. That alone should be enough to deem her incompetent right?
My grandfather was sharp as a tack until almost the day he died at 96 but he did have physical limitations and needed round-the-clock care. Fortunately, my mother had been helping him manage his finances and a lot of other "adulting" for years but my client? She was completely on her own. No family, no friends and apparently not even a social worker at the facility where she was paying a pretty big chunk of money every month to provide any support whatsoever.
Sadly, she had been extremely belligerent since moving in and the staff had grown to just ignore her needs. As far as they were concerned, she was considered "independent enough".
What is wrong with our country?
We expect a 95-year-old to fend for themselves because we don't want to deal with them? Listen, I get it...being yelled at, ran over by a wheelchair, or accused of stealing are very difficult issues to manage but we shouldn't ignore her and let her just wither in her wheelchair until she dies should we?
I've been in this position before with clients.
It just breaks my heart and maintaining a proper boundary is hard...really really really hard.
I don't know how to say "oh well...let the chips fall where they may."
No, it isn't easy to have to get irrational phone calls screaming at you because the person on the other end doesn't remember who you are from one minute to the next and yet is accusing you of stealing from her every time she can't find something. Trust me, I am not at all concerned that the police are going to come after me. I am someone who couldn't live with myself taking something from anyone. In fact, whenever I am working with a client and I come across even a penny, I put it in a designated area where I will put any money I find as well as any valuables, take a photo and make sure the client is aware of what I found like what you see in the photo below (from another recent client). I always play "How much will we find?" with clients and joke that whoever is closest to guessing the amount gets to keep it.
For the record, I wasn't able to get Adult Protective Services to do anything for this elderly woman. They told me that can't intervene unless the facility can either get the woman to agree to have a doctor examine her or they are willing to call EMS claiming she is a danger to herself and others and hope they can get her on a 72-hour hold to determine her level of competency.
I desperately wanted to help her get her house cleared out but I am simply not able to take on the role of a caregiver. I tried to take her back and forth because she insisted she needed to be at the house for the decluttering and purging process but it was either extremely unproductive or she would cancel last minute, leaving me and any of my team members assigned with yet another day we weren't going to get paid. I never like to abandon a client in their time of need but I may have to let this one go.
I don't know what it is going to take for our society to figure out how to help people like this particular woman without jumping through so many hoops and even when you do still not get adequate assistance. But it is one more reason that I know I need to be working less in and more on my business to advocate for those struggling with making big transitions that require my type of services. If you want to join me or have any suggestions, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org . I am looking to create more community partners in 2022 that can provide financial, physical and emotional support for any clients that are not able to afford to pay as well as need assistance that goes well beyond my level of expertise.
And on that note, I wish each and every one of you reading this a healthy and happy 2022. May you never experience what some of my clients go through and hope the year ahead is one filled with much greater peace, love and joy for us all,
COCTC aka Chief of Chaos To Calm