Examples of People I Have Helped
Below are a few examples of people who’ve come to me in crisis. I assessed their situation, prioritized the immediate problems and initiated strategies to bring resolution. In some cases, that was all that was needed. In other cases, we continued into a deeper part of therapy, e.g. self-understanding, life review, repair of family relationships, letting go of endings, moving through transition and creating new beginnings.
Situation: Isolation, loneliness, estranged adult children.
Al was an 85 year old father who lived at home with one of his two adult sons. He felt very isolated and lonely. He was so very intelligent and insightful and had had a successful career as an engineer. He longed for a competent and compassionate confidante and sounding board familiar with the challenges of older life and families. He needed to be able to safely explore his feelings about his life now, the grief he still carried about the death of his wife, his exasperation over his two son’s arguments, and his decisions about how to divide up their inheritance.
Al worked through a lot of his life stories through reminiscence therapy, explored alternatives about how to divide up his assets with his sons, and became confident and clear about his decisions. He came to peace about his legacy, the value of his life and lessons learned and blossomed into forming some deeper relationships with new friends in a peer support group. The dual support of a group and the one one one therapy provided the encouragement he needed to find creative outlets for helping others and grow his confidence in his value as a loving father and delightful older gentleman with a great sense of humor and playfulness.
Situation: Isolation, Confusion, Early Alzheimers, Relationship Stress with Adult Daughter
Gerri was an 82 year old lady living in an assisted living facility. She felt isolated, unseen, unappreciated by her adult children and severely depressed. She had been talking about suicide. Her adult daughter asked if I would see her. I scheduled a home visit and immediately saw that the dark studio apartment in which Gerri lived had one window and it faced a brick wall! Gerri clearly loved nature which I found as we explored gardens around the building. I arranged to have her moved to an apartment with a beautiful view of trees and a mountain. I referred her to a geriatrician who stabilized her medications. We met weekly and developed a deep, trusting therapeutic relationship. She had excellent long term memory and worked through childhood issues that had troubled her for years. We also focused on her relationship with her adult children and their inability to see her as she was now. She forgave them for that and focused on loving them. She became peaceful and there was no more talk of suicide.
This mother’s crises abated so she was freed up enough to be able to do some profound life review and reminiscence therapy sessions – her long term memory was rich and deep, even though her short term memory was severely compromised. The review of her old memories with a trusted and trained listener and therapist provided a sense of closure and peace for her. Healing happened and her immense sense of humor resurfaced. She also moved to a smaller cozier retirement home where she was able to make new friends.
Situation: Depression and Anxiety, Overwhelm
80 year old Anne had recently moved to this area. She had left her large home and moved in locally with an adult child and family. The house was very expensive, the situation was noisy and chaotic and the elderly mother was paying a lot of the bills which was putting a strain on her finances. She didn’t know how to get out of this situation. She was severely anxious, confused and depressed. With support and active attentive nonjudgmental listening, the mother found her voice. She decided to move out into a small apartment within walking distance of her favorite shops and cafe (since she did not drive).
Anne’s anxiety decreased. As a result, she was able to turn in therapy to talking about her life, her purpose now, things she would still like to do in her life, travel plans for the future and plans for participating in local activities. She worked through her feelings of depression which decreased, increased her daily exercise, and she began to find herself again and create a new identity and purpose. She attends a weekly group she is interested in, gives talks on her favorite literature and volunteers weekly at a local nonprofit agency. She sees her family regularly but at her convenience in quieter settings.
Situation: Chronic severe pain, need for advocacy and support, Anxiety
Rosalyn, an artistic, talented woman in her 70’s with no local family felt misunderstood by her health professionals and fiduciary. She needed a trusted sounding board with a compassionate listener and expert in the field of aging. As a very bright woman suffering severe pain which impacts her ability to communicate, she needed an advocate with social services, medical professionals and others in her support circle. We worked to create a strong and trusting team around her. She had had a history of being treated dismissively and disrespectfully and desperately needed to be seen, heard, valued and represented.
Rosalyn has reclaimed a deep sense of self-esteem as a strong, capable and deeply wise woman who has endured and triumphed over physical health situations that might have crushed others. She has learned new, effective communication skills. Her anxiety and anger have subsided and she focuses anew on her art and friends. She still struggles with depression when her pain levels soar, however she has a wide range of pain management skills and a trusted team who she reaches out to for support.
Situation: Challenging relationship with mentally ill adult son, Depression
Jan, an 80 year old woman, could not get her mentally ill son to move out of her home. He was emotionally abusive to her. She felt hopeless and depressed and unable to affect any change in the situation. She had very little emotional support from her ex, the son’s father. She came to me wanting some consultation and education about elder abuse and evictions, communication skills and family relationship repair. We met together with her family and the son’s psychiatrist. She was encouraged to talk with Adult Protective Services and an attorney to learn about her rights and possible procedures. As she felt more empowered, she began to look at her life overall and her lifelong role as a caregiver. She went on a long vacation to a destination on the other side of the world coming back re-energized. She dove into letting go of old habits and identities, moving through transition times of not knowing what her new interests would be and ultimately finding peace in new strength of mind and purpose.
Jan decided that she did not want her son to move out. She extricated herself from a reactive habit and began to meditate and exercise. She found new volunteer opportunities and planned more trips. She explored more deeply her relationships with her parents, her childhood, first marriage, and the childhood of her adult son. She told her son how much she loved him and distinguished that unconditional mother’s love from her dislike of his behavior at times. She explored communicating her feelings to him rather than immediately feeling angry. The family has begun to heal, her anxiety has decreased and she is experiencing much more peace.