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Loss and Change

The blogger spoke with Arleen Stern, LCSW, who has worked with the aging all of her professional life, and also does psycho-therapy, as the issues she encounters are not always or only related to aging.

I am working with a couple. The man is demented, his wife, Mrs. K., is very clear, very smart, but quite overwhelmed. She also has a sister that she is very close to, who has mental health problems. And she is escorting this sister to every medical appointment, everything, as well as taking care of herself and her husband. Mrs. K. is 83, and she is someone who has always felt driven to do everything for everyone, and it’s a big thing to let it go. She has not let her family in to give a hand until very recently because she has realized that she’s in over her head. She is stalwart, but it is quite daunting.

I do a lot of negotiating between the wife and her daughter, because the daughter has particular concerns and things that distress her. The daughter and Mrs. K. are in a difficult dance.

You have to be diplomatic. It is a very interesting combination of skills, using mental health skills also, to talk about the emotions about what is going on. I am doing that with Mrs. K. The husband is ill, the sister has problems, so there is the sadness, and the disappointment, and the “loss” of a husband and a sister.

Dealing with loss and change is the overarching frame of the work. It’s painful work, really. Both the routine and the challenge is the negotiation between the players: the client, the spouse, family members, and the friends. It is routine, it’s kind of icky, and it’s kind of fun too, but challenging.

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