A little bit of background, I am a social work major. Social work is a helping profession, and social workers can work with any population! Youth, mental health, disability, veterans, minorities, immigrants, elderly, abuse victims, prisoners… just about anyone who needs help, it can be a social workers job to help them. Most social workers pick one population to work with and focus on. At first, I thought I wanted to work with kids, but then I found many other groups of people to be interesting as well. I didn’t know how I was going to choose… but I did know one thing…
I did not want to work with old people.
When I imagined working with the elderly, I pictured a nursing home hallway lined with people in wheelchairs sitting there drooling or grumbling. I do not like the idea of a full grown person’s drool.
Despite how much I did not want to work with the elderly, I applied for a summer job working at a nursing home. It was my best option to get some experience related to my field. However, I never got a response from the nursing home.
Months later, the next spring semester, I had to choose an internship. My first choice involving criminal justice did not work out. With not many options left, I chose a hospice organization. More old people, really?
Only a few weeks later, I get a call. It is the nursing home I applied to a year ago offering me the job. It seemed to me like a sign that I did right by choosing hospice.
Initially, I did not enjoy the job. My job would be to go to different residents houses or apartments and do whatever it is they need. I could help them get ready for bed, cook them dinner, take care of their pets, or just keep them company. It was my first time ever working with the elderly, and my first few residents were rather difficult. I realized how difficult it can be to communicate with someone who has dementia and even 90 year old men can be pervs.
After a few weeks of getting to know the job, I fell in love with it. I made sure to not work with old man pervs anymore, and I tried to stick with a few people who I really enjoyed working with.
All in all, this summer I met a wonderful man with alzheimer’s disease who always laughs at me, and he can be pretty funny too. I met a couple in their 90’s who have been married for 72 years, and still love each other so much. I met an elderly hispanic lady who always told me I was “muy bonita.” I met a female marine who loves cats and has a twin sister. I had countless people grandmother me, trying to buy me food. The elderly are actually wonderful people to get to know, besides, we are all going to be just like them someday.
Although, it will be sad, I look forward to working with hospice in a few months. I now feel well prepared to handle all the challenges working with the elderly brings.