Wow! That’s a long title…
I had a meeting yesterday with my boss and we talked about various aspects of my role as a Social Worker. One of those aspects is that I need to do a certain amount of ‘professional development’ to maintain my professional registration each year. I asked if I could use writing this blog as part of that development. Her answer was ‘Yes, If it informs your practice and in some way changes and influences the way you work!’
Well, this is the thing. Having this condition and as a consequence, writing this blog has fundamentally changed me as a person, both in my personal life and in my professional life. My boss often says that I am a ‘planner’ that I like to know what is happening and to be organised. She is – or has been – very right in that description. In a lot of ways I still am. But, what I have learned in this journey with Parkinson’s is that it is not fruitful for me to spend too much time planning and thinking ahead. I need to focus on the moments of my life as they happen and not to think to much of the moments that may happen in the future.
How does this transfer to my work? I work – somewhat ironically – in a Neurological Rehabilitation ward with people under 65 (my demographic) and with a brain injury caused by a medical event such as a stroke, tumour or conditions like MS and occasionally Parkinson’s. While I am careful not to share my diagnosis with my patients and their families, I can use my own experience to help me to identify with and help them.
So, when patients and their families start to talk about things like, ‘Will I ever drive again?’ or ‘Will I be able to go back to work?’ or other things that may or may not be in the future, I talk about focussing on the here and now. Focussing on their rehabilitation. Celebrating what they can do not focussing too much on what they may or may not be able to do in the future.
I also talk to people about self-care. Something we all need to practice. Many family members feel guilty if they don’t visit every day. Some, twice a day. Time and time again I talk to family about taking a day or two off to rest and care for themselves. The last thing our patients need is to be worrying about their partner or other family member getting sick themselves by not getting the rest and support that they need. The patients also need time to focus on their rehabilitation and too many visits can tire them out so they don’t have the energy to do the work they need to do.
As I speak to family and patients about these things, I do think about myself and my own family. I know that they care about me and some day may worry about me too. Maybe they already do? But, the last thing I want is for them to focus so much on supporting me that they don’t look after themselves. That they don’t tell me when they are exhausted, overwhelmed and maybe need to consider their own needs above mine. I also hope they will let me help them when I can and while I can.
So, this blog, this condition, this processing of what the various aspects of Parkinson’s mean to me, helps me in so many ways. I also hope it helps me to be a more empathetic and effective person as a Social Worker and as a member of my own family.
I want to be a help to others in both my personal and professional lives and hope that I continue to do so for many years to come.