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Posted: March 15, 2005

Professional Caregiving

It's All About Closure

Wisdom is attributed to our elders. Not only is intellectual prowess attained later in life, but emotional strength too. In fact, a natural course of life is gaining perspective.

One researcher from Stanford University, Laura Carstensen (American Society on Aging, winter 2005) studied the relationship between time, motivation and emotional experience. More than five years ago, her research demonstrated that the more time one perceives is ahead of them, the more the focus is on information and knowledge.

Older people seek out the meaning of relationships, the feelings behind their actions. It?s the old theory of supply and demand. If there is an endless supply of life, the value of things we cherish, fall away. But life is finite and this fact increases the value of the most important aspects of our lives.

Our minds pick up on the need to resolve unfinished business, and ?to pursue emotionally meaningful goals? as we come closer to the death. This is Erik Erikson?s final life stage of regenerativity.

Older adults? minds are seeking resolution to some of most important periods in their lives. They seek to rebuild the next generation.

As we age, our. knees start creaking, our backs hurt from too much sitting, our hearing starts to go and we realize that we are moving along the same trajectory as those before us, those who already have aged. This awareness brings with it the impetus to bring unfinished business to closure.

About 10 years ago I visited my in-laws in Israel. My father-in-law was at that time dying of cancer. I wanted to capture their stories, and I brought a small tape recorder with the intent of gathering some stories and preserving their voices telling their history. My mother-in-law was very expressive and always was the storyteller. My father-in-law was the opposite, quiet, almost too quiet.

I believe their appreciation for the opportunity to save the stories was greatly felt. I got their permission to copy the tapes, and all of their children and grandchildren have them. It was not only a cherished gift to the next generation, but it was also a gift to those who knew their stories, their voices would outlive them.

Legacy work, oral histories, storytelling, life review and journaling are tools that are particularly useful with older adults as they work to process what has been. Meaningful ways of participating in the community are also critical. Trained professionals, social workers, counselors, and hospice volunteers can encourage groups for this purpose, or one-on-one oral history taking, tape recorders for private ruminations, etc., are all ways we can support our clients and their families. Try it in your own life and practice.


Sylvia Nissenboim is a licensed clinical social worker and who has been working in the field of adult day services in the St. Louis area. She is the director of four adult care and enrichment centers for the American Red Cross and also operates a personal and professional coaching firm, LifeWork Transitions, specializing in caregiving concerns, adult day care management and other aging services, such as virtual coaching and family care giving support groups. She co-authored The Positive Interactions Program, is a national speaker, and has served as president of the Missouri Adult Day Care Association and as a member of the Missouri Governor's Advisory Council on Aging..

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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