I am so grateful that at an early age I learned from my mother how to treat older adults by watching as she cared for and loved her mother. I’m not sure how, but from many miles away, my mother knew that the responsibilities of maintaining a home had become too much for my grandmother. She asked her to live with our family when I was a young teen. Thankfully, my grandmother agreed and our three-generation household made a very happy home. I learned a few years later that my mother was also rescuing my grandmother from a few family members who frequently depended on her for “extended credit.”
Little did I know then that those 10+ years would be the building blocks of my compassion and affection for seniors and that I would dedicate most of my adult life and career to serving them. This life lesson prepared me to not only easily relate to older people, but also to talk with families about their older loved one. I observed firsthand how the spectrum of aging in place is greatly enhanced when your family, neighbors, and friends surround and support you. I also came to realize that not all sons-in-law have such a wonderful relationship with their mother-in-law. This first-hand lesson taught me how important it is that your spouse loves and respects not only you but your parents as well.
Over the last 27 years I have worked at three locations where I have served older adults and each opportunity has thankfully given me the chance to learn. Although my grandmother and mother are no longer with us I have been “adopted” many times by residents and clients. How wonderful that my early lessons solidly prepared me to skillfully work with, for, and assist seniors through their rewarding and difficult times. Of course my formal education, training, seminars, and day-to-day work experiences have greatly enhanced this foundation. But I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much had it had not been for those lasting life lessons from two remarkable women, whom I can proudly say were two of my dearest family members.
Dawn M. Quattlebaum is the Chief Program Officer for Seabury Resources for Aging. Dawn can be reached at (202) 414-6314 or via email at DQuattlebaum@seaburyresources.org.