This week has been a week of advocating for one of my dear clients. We began our relationship many years ago, and he has always had a clear mind and a strong voice. Although his ways may not always have seemed logical to others, to him, it has always been clear why he is doing what he is doing.
A few weeks back he was admitted to the hospital, and I was drawn into some of the conversations. I noticed “dementia” on his list of diagnosis. In discussion with the doctors, there was a reference to him not being of sound mind. I could not remain silent and challenged their assumption, as everyone in this conversation was new to him. Although they cordially listened to my challenge, they ordered a neuro-psych evaluation with the full expectation that he would not pass. Two days later I learned he passed with flying colors and he was discharged back to his condo with the freedom to make his decisions and to live his life as he pleases.
He is back in the hospital again, and I am frustrated by the conversations that are repeating. As I have advocated again for him, I heard some of the following from the medical professionals. Is he really of sound mind? At 90 I would not expect his reasoning to be rational. I can not understand his speech, are you sure his thoughts are clear? I maintain eye contact with these people and remind them that two weeks ago, he passed his neuro-psych with flying colors. I share with them that if they take the time to listen to him, they will hear how clear his thinking is. I assure them that the more they treat him like he is not clear, he will ensure that they understand that he does have a voice and it works. Often that comes through as resistance and adds to where he is misunderstood.
If you or a loved one are aging, please be willing to have someone alongside who knows your strengths and represents them in spaces you are misunderstood, misdiagnosed or plain overlooked. We have big systems today that are often filled with professionals who are too busy or multitasking and not investing in the relationship of the person who is sharing their space at any given moment.
I am grateful for the opportunity to engage with my clients based on their strengths and join honest conversations about their struggles. I do believe one of the most rewarding spaces I have ever stood is to create the space where an individual, who deserves to be heard, can be heard. I used to think speaking for them was my role. I am grateful to have learned how that is equally disrespectful.
I wonder where you are able to create space for someone else to be heard? I encourage you to look for those opportunities and use your voice just long enough to allow the one you are advocating for to speak.