Life is messy. I don’t care how many times you clean the kitchen or how well. It just gets messy. Maybe it’s bread crumbs or a smear of jelly. Maybe it’s grease and pasta splattered across the stove. Maybe you made a smoothie and forgot to put the top on tight. But face it: mess happens. It happens in our kitchens and it happens in our lives.
It’s how we deal with them that matters. I shared an apartment once with a gal whose idea of cleaning was to sweep stuff into a corner of the room and leave it. Never mind that opening a door blew it all back again. She felt she had done her part. Funny thing is some people don’t even SEE the mess. Others run around plucking imaginary hairs from the sofa cushions. The rest of us are somewhere in between.
Counselors are the ones we call when we have a real mess on our hands and don’t know what to do. Like a clean-up crew, they come into our lives with dusters, vacuums and a slew of tools to help us get the job done. It’s a tricky business though: appearances are deceiving—and so are words. Unfortunately, many tend to use the same bag of tricks with every different client. But even if you specialize in pregnant, problem teens, with ADHD who grew up in Tupelo, there simply is no, ‘one size fits all.’ In fact, sometimes no size fits at all.
Same goes for old folks. They are as unique and complex at 70 as they were at 17. Maybe more so. You won’t ‘change’ them but you can give them options—lots of them—whether it be guidance in downsizing, prioritizing finances, seeking legal help, making lifestyle changes or helping them resolve long-standing family issues. Their needs are many. You’ll need every tool in your box plus some new ones. But if their oven has baked on grease, whatever you do, don’t hand them a bottle of Windex!
P. S. I never miss the free CE of the month, even if it’s not my ‘thing.’ You just never know when those insights from borderline personality disorder to ‘wholeness’ in counseling, will come in handy. They do. Especially in ‘real’ life.
Helen Hudson is a counselor and 20 year member of the ACA. She is also the author of "Kissing Tomatoes," and speaks around the country on the importance of caring for the elderly, particularly those with Alzheimer's, with compassion.