Role Reversal: Home Care Hos-pi-tal-i-ty

affordable home care, senior home assistance, home care companies, help for senior caregivers, elderly home assistance, eldercare at home, disability home care, care for older people, respite for caregiversIt never ceases to amaze me how hospitable many of my clients are to me when I arrive at their homes for our initial meeting and assessment.  I have been offered everything from a simple glass of water to a full course Russian meal of braised beef and root vegetables to be eaten with the entire family after a prayer together that I couldn’t even understand!  Once I even had my fortune read from the coffee grounds after drinking a demitasse of the strong Greek drink with milk and sugar.  From my experience, those especially hospitable are the immigrant populations, such as the Russians, the Hmong, and the Greek.  Some people just have a knack for making others feel welcome and at home.

The definition of hospitality is the act of being hospitable, which means being welcoming and accommodating to guests, visitors, or strangers.  It has to do with the relationship between guest and host.

I’ve been thinking about what happens to hospitable people when they can no longer be hospitable.  Perhaps physically they cannot prepare food or drink for their guests.  Maybe they can’t afford to provide treats to visitors or even stand up to greet them at the door.  As my colleague Carol Hauser points out, it can be a challenge for seniors when the labels that define them change or go away.

When these hospitable people become unable to perform routine household activities and end up having home care services for seniors, they actually become guests in their own homes. You might ask what does that have to do with hospitality?

I’d like to tell you a little bit about our company.  The owners have a knack for making people feel comfortable.  They are friendly and generous, gracious, and accommodating.  They are indeed the hosts, and I and the other employees (at-home caregivers) are the guests of this company.  The relationship between the “host and the guest” is one of respect, providing for needs, and treating others as equals.  Does that sound like hospitality to you?

As a result, the culture of our company is one of hospitality.  This carries over into the care that our caregivers provide for their clients.  Besides the general cleaning, laundry, and other non-medical senior care services our caregivers provide, it is not uncommon for them to share the leftovers of last night’s meal, bring a birthday cupcake or other goodie, or lend a listening ear.

Even as I was composing this blog, I got a telephone call from one of our clients.  He was ecstatic because his caregiver had found out it was his birthday and had gone to the store and purchased a $10 steak!  That caregiver, like many of our caregivers, has the gift of hospitality.  The caregiver knew what would make his client especially happy and took action.  The client was absolutely tickled to be remembered in that way.

These little things may not sound as important as vacuuming the floors or changing the bed linens, but these thoughtful, kind, and attentive little gestures are the things of which hospitality is made.  They are the very things that build loving and lasting caregiver-client relationships.

Julie Ellingson, LSW

April 15, 2013

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