On the surface, a relationship appears as a two-way arrangement between two individuals. Sometimes it’s that simple. In most cases, relationships are more interconnected and multi-layered than that.
“External relationships create a complex network connecting a care team, family members, spiritual and other support systems with ourselves.”
An article published by the American Society on Aging in Generations explores the topic of relationships in elder care. Steven D. Johnson, PA-C, recently retired from a distinguished career in geriatrics, describes the complexity of such relationships this way:
“Care of the older adult is all about relationships. The relationship between medical intervention and metabolic, cardiac and renal function. The relationship between function and the aging process; function and disease. The relationship between patient, provider, care team and family.”
As Johnson points out, there are internal relationships: the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual relationships within each of us working to keep in balance. External relationships create a complex network connecting a care team, family members, spiritual and other support systems with ourselves. This network grows in importance to our wellbeing especially as we age.
As part of this network, a professional working in elder care is challenged to maintain “respect for the autonomy of the patient, the context of their family, the so often unrealistic expectations of family and advocates, and the barriers inherent in our system of care for all patients” according to Johnson.
Since its founding, PioneerCare has pursued a mission to promote quality of life in a Christ-like way for those we serve by providing diverse and holistic care focusing always on individual dignity and worth.
Such a mission goes nowhere without building and maintaining relationships. A new program at PioneerCare Center formalizes an important aspect of the culture people experience within the organization. The “Star Team Players” program encourages employees to celebrate their coworkers by nominating them for recognition. Relationships with residents and their families always play a part in it.
“Caring for others, being of service to others, is a powerful experience.”
“Ashley is an absolute rockstar,” Anna Newkirk says in her nomination of her coworker, Ashley Sortland. “She is a go-getter and sets the example to the other CNAs when it comes to hard work. She does a thorough and quality job and is always kind and loving to her residents. Her attitude is stellar” in her relationships with PioneerCare residents.
Johnson also acknowledges the personal benefits he gained in his work. “For me there were so many unexpected and powerful human moments,” Johnson shares. “Being a witness to and present for the last hours of an esteemed colleague’s life, holding their hand at the end. Being present for families as they face the inevitable and offering some direction and guidance and, I hope, some comfort.”
“Caring for others, being of service to others, is a powerful experience,” says Karen Wulfekuhle, Assisted Living Director for Pioneer Cottages memory care. “I also think about purpose and connection. Being of service to others is a privilege.”
While technical skills are key, succeeding in a work setting such as elder care requires a special skillset and a willingness to open oneself to such relationships. PioneerCare offers an environment and culture that encourages those who are ready to pursue and embrace such a career.
PioneerCare hires registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, caregivers, dietary and culinary staff, maintenance staff, and more. Details are available online at www.pioneercare.org/careers.
Written by Steve Guttormson, PioneerCare