I work in a group-home. I take care of four female elderly vulnerable adults and I will say it’s one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs I’ve worked thus far. One of my favorite things about the house they live in is all of the pictures on the walls. Some of the pictures are pretty old and it’s interesting to see the ladies in their younger years. One of ladies(we’ll call her Katy even though I changed the name for confidentiality) has a large amount of pictures on the armoire in her bedroom. I noticed a certain woman that appeared in many different pictures with Katy. Pictures of them laughing in Halloween costumes… pictures of the two knitting together… raking leaves… drinking coffee. I could tell that this woman was important to Katy. One day I asked her about the woman in all of the pictures. “Oh that’s Rachel. She used to live here.” I naively asked Katy where Rachel she lives now. “She lives in heaven now.” I got chills. I couldn’t imagine living with someone for years and having all of those memories and suddenly having them gone. It gave me little twinge of sadness as this is part of getting older.
Another one of my resident’s (we’ll call her Sunny) has a lot of picture frames gracing the shelves in her room. There’s a few pictures of her but most of the pictures are of other people. Sunny likes to tell me about every single pictures. One is of her uncle, one is her mother, another one is of her dog she had as a child. There’s so much about these ladies pasts that I don’t know about… I wonder what it would have been like growing up as a child with disabilities in the 40’s.
One day I took Sunny to a second-hand store. She picked out a pictures frame that already had a polaroid in it. The pictures was of a dark haired woman embracing a dark haired man. They looked to be in their 30’s and extremely happy. I figured that Sunny would take out the picture when she got home and use the frame. After supper and Sunny’s routine TV watching she got ready for bed. As I was helping her into bed I noticed the picture she had just purchased sitting on her shelf with the many other frames. It still had the polaroid with the man and the woman in it. Suddenly it hit me. Sunny didn’t know any of those people in the pictures. They were all strangers. “Who is that picture of?” I pointed at the newest addition. “That’s my daughter and son-in law”, Sunny replied.
Moments like that are so heartbreaking. Sunny made up a life for herself that she probably never had. Maybe those pictures represent real people for her. Maybe they don’t. Either way it is my job to accept and love all of my clients exactly how they are. They deserve to be appreciated, given opportunities, and live a wonderful life because they are some of the best people God created.