An Aging Life Care Specialist, Her Client, and a Cup of Tea

An Aging Life Care Specialist, Her Client, and a Cup of Tea

by Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM

As Aging Life Care Specialists, much has been written about the concrete services we provide: homecare arrangements, assessments, liaisons with doctors. But what about those intimate moments when we are sitting across the table with a client? It is the foundation on which all chances of success are planted. Possibly, it occurs in the beginning of a relationship when we are trying to get to know our client, or more importantly, the client is trying to figure out, ‘why is this stranger in my house’?  A cup of tea can help.

It has been my experience that too much coffee and tea can be a good thing. A few days ago, after visiting a client at White Plains Hospital Center, I stopped by their recently opened café for a cup of coffee and a freshly made gluten free blueberry tea cake. The hospital is known for its good care and the café is now following in that tradition, albeit gastronomically. As for the tea cake, it was delicious. I do not have food allergies, but I do have a weakness for a good piece of plain cake.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived in Harrison, New York, at the home of a client.  The taste of the coffee was clinging to my palette and I secretly wished I had bought another of those sweet treats for later. Hearing the bell, Helena*, after looking through her mail slot, opened the door, always suspicious of who is knocking (which is not a bad thing). Recognizing my name, she let me in. Sometimes I am sequestered in her foyer for the visit and other days I am escorted into the kitchen. Today was a kitchen day. We started our conversation and then, as it progressed, she asked if I wanted a cup of tea. Did I really want to forgo that lingering taste of coffee for tea?  Truthfully, no, but I happily accepted.

Why did I say “Yes” when I could have just as well said “No, I just had coffee?” It all has to do with purpose in our clients’ lives. It’s a life quality that starts to wane as one gets older. You’re told to stop driving because you had a couple of fender benders; now you can’t visit your home bound friend or be a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels. And then the greatest upset of all, your spouse passes away. No one to cook that special dish which brought such accolades despite its simplicity.  Such was the case with Helena. There was no longer anybody to make that cup of tea for, so how could I ever think of saying, “No”? I sat at the kitchen table and watched her take the crackled and stained mug out of the cabinet.  Water boiled, she carefully handed me my tea, mystified as always, that I take it plain.

The act of making the cup of tea for this Age Life Care Specialist was both an act of kindness and the momentary gift of purpose. As for the taste of the coffee no longer lingering on my palette, it was surpassed by the opportunity to return to Helena a memory of time that was sweet, if not sweeter, than my blueberry teacake. It was a very good visit and the very essence of what the Aging Life Care profession is all about.

*names have been changed.

Miriam Zucker LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM, is the Founder of Directions in Aging based in New Rochelle, New York. She is proud to say that after a year of sitting in Helena’s vestibule, she is now warmly welcomed into her kitchen for her weekly cup of tea.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

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