Senior Companionship is a Job and a Valuable Skill

Senior Companionship is a Job and a Valuable Skill

When we learn someone is  a licensed direct care worker, it is often assumed that all of their clients are bed-bound, terminally ill, or otherwise 100% dependent on someone else helping them carry out  ADLs. For the most part, it is true that if a client is in need of long-term care or home health services, there are likely at least one or two daily tasks they absolutely cannot perform without assistance. If an aide works 8 hours for a bed-bound client who wears adult diapers, they can count on having to clean and change them at least twice (and diapering 150+ lbs of fragile dead weight is not as easy as one might think).

But there are some cases that don’t require as much heavy lifting and backbreaking as they may require some softer skills, such as active listening and empathy. Senior companionship is a real skill and a real job and that fact are justified both by science, social study and by basic human nature.

Firstly, companionship can very easily treat depression. According to the Center for Disease Control, 13.5% of older adults qualifying for home healthcare suffer from depression and more cases may go undiagnosed due to the misconception that depression is a normal part of aging. Individuals of all ages with depression may suffer to the degree of having a risk of self-harm or being placed on suicide watch by healthcare providers. In many cases, companion’s mere presence each day is making a difference in a person’s life.

Healthcare is one of the most diverse industries in the world in terms of race, ethnicity and nationality in its workers, especially in the United States. Depending on where a healthcare provider is located, a particular health-related job can be nearly monopolized by one or two nationalities of people. For example, in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, the vast majority opexels-photo-247811f home health professionals and paraprofessionals are of African descent. It would be hard to keep your white American client entertained when you two don’t share understanding of the same cultural references (and those come in handy). This cultural barrier only comes second to the commonly large age gaps between aides and their clients. Finding common ground and building a relationship with a client so different from yourself is not impossible, but it doesn’t come easy.

In many other cases, being physically present is only a fraction of the feat. Keeping a client entertained is another element of companionship that should be pointed out. Amateurs and even experienced stand-up comedians find it challenging to keep a room full of people entertained for a whole hour. Imagine having to keep that same room full of people entertained day-after-day for 6 to 9 hours a day. No improv studio is that good. Anyone who has ever worked with an individual with dementia knows that if one fails to tap into some creativity, they can expect to have the conversation. Every single hour. Every single shift. Every single day.

Charisma in a companion is also important for clients still maintaining a relatively high level of physical independence and mental sharpness. Keep them entertained helps with building confidence and further encourages independence and especially mental sharpness.

“Encouraging positive conversation” and providing “emotional support” is a part of most clinical nursing job descriptions as well as healthcare aides’. These companionship skills are important, not just for passing time, but for enhancing a person’s everyday life. Lucky for the shy surgeon, most of his dealings with patients involve them being unconscious.


Featured image by Matthias Zomer
HIV And The Case For Men In The Closet

HIV And The Case For Men In The Closet

I’ve come across two major thought camps of homophobes, with one being, not surprisingly, anti-everything-that-isn’t-heterosexual-and-or-heteronormative. I wont’t waste time on a multidemensional explanation for such a shallow group of people. The second group, however, manages to be only slightly more interesting, in that they are homophobic at the core, but they’ve somehow designated themselves as diplomats. This group may consist of the people you will hear saying, ” If you’re gay, just be gay! It’s these men on the down low who are causing problems.” More on my issues with this in a minute…

Homophobia in the black community is a deep dark rabbit hole of opinions and miseducation, but for now, I’d like to focus on the subject of closeted gay men in relation to the subject of HIV/AIDS. People of all levels of anti-gayness  will often use the spread of HIV as a justification for their ostracism. But mainstream and even “black” media does an excellent job of demonizing closeted queer men in addition to misrepresenting LGBTQ people (including not respresenting them at all). With total disregard to how openly gay men of color are judged and mistreated in society (and even within the gay community) and no consideration for how still very uneducated even the most educated of black people are on social issues that aren’t viewed as a “black issue”, people are still baffled at the idea that a man would go so far as to marry a woman to cover up his homosexual inclinations. It’s 2016 and people still practice skin bleaching! But I digress…

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that half of all black African-American men will be diagnosed with HIV. I appreciate objective material that presents fact and encourages people to use the information to work toward more education and positive change. But I’m a pessimist (yes, I know..sorry). I am not convinced that the people sharing articles about 50% of gay black men having HIV care about the health status of the gay community. Assuming that folk actually read past the shock jock-y headline, these types of articles will likely be shared to say, “Hey! See? These gay people are at it again.”

Just as poverty in the black community isn’t as simple as “black people are lazy”, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the gay community isn’t just “DL brothers” effing things up.

(Cheating on your spouse or partner ain’t cool no matter who is doing it, but that is a matter of character, not sexual identity.)

Realness of Illness #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth

Realness of Illness #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means one can expect issues and organizations surrounding the disease to take a front seat in terms of publicity this month. A couple days ago folks celebrated  #NoBraDay, in which I did not participate. A number of people opposed to the campaign/holiday for fairly sensible reasons, however my reason for opting out was simply a matter of physiology.

Today, I would like to call attention to other illnesses that have been more or less making waves as of late. Here are 5 diseases causing as much buzz as breast cancer:

#5 Epilepsy

I heard the term ‘epilepsy’ and ‘epileptic’ before, but I received my crash course on the disorder after my sister suffered a violent seizure in the middle of the night which scared the beans out of me and landed her in the hospital. According to the CDC, less than 2% of Americans suffer from epilepsy, however there are other more common conditions, such as stroke or severe head injury, that can lead to one having the disorder.

Epilepsy doesn’t get as much publicity as breast cancer and I can’t think at the top of my head of too many celebrities going on Ellen discussing it. Sadly, my last memory of hearing of epilepsy in the media was in the police footage of an infamous arrest that’s also gained some media attention.


Photo by Cristian Baron

I remember there being a big MRSA scare when I was in high school. Made gym class a bit more awkward than it already had been. The slightest of itches warranted the DEEPEST of prayers. Good thing I was in Catholic school [insert comedy drum fill].

It looks like Lamar Odom isn’t the only athlete who’s landed himself in the hospital this week. Daniel Fells, New York Giants tight end, has been in ICU for almost a week and may leave the hospital without a foot due to his diagnosis of the infection. This recent case of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is calling attention to athlete’s vulnerability, but also just how easily anyone person can be infected no matter how clean and careful you may think you are.

#3 Lupus

In my twenties, I’ve been running into more and more women with lupus. This makes sense, since most people with lupus are women of color between the ages of 15 and 44. It was revealed that former Disney queen, Selena Gomez, was diagnosed with lupus after it was rumored that she had gone into chemotherapy.


PSA, since we’re on the subject, lupus is an autoimmune disease, while cancer is the growth and spread of abnormal tissue. You’re welcome.

Other celebrities with the disease include: Lady Gaga, Toni Braxton and Michael Jackson.

#2 Gun Violence???

According University of Illinois Chicago’s Dr. Gary Slutkin, gun violence is an illness that is preventable. For more than a decade the epidemiologist has been researching and spread the message of a “cure for violence”. Given the constant heated debates surrounding the topic of gun control in the US, I think this interesting perspective on violence and gun use could either act as an objective breath of fresh air or the idea could just recycled be over and over for click-worthy headlines. Hey, I was successfully baited.

Regardless of your politics, I think most can agree that violence in general has surpassed ridiculous levels on the global scale of violent occurrences.

#1 Ebola

Oh, no! I didn’t forget. But I won’t hold it against you if you did. Just at the beginning of the “social activism through hashtagging” exploded into normality, I made the mistake once of posting the status “is Ebola still a thing?” to be fascetious. Bad idea. But I digress.

Just last year, the world, or at least US news outlets, were in a panic for fear of a spread of the Ebola virus. The good news? No new cases have been reported in any of the three countries affected the most by the virus as of last week!

It is still suggested that anyone leaving that area of Africa, particularly Liberia, should get a medical examination and be on the alert for any sign of symptoms. Ebola makes #1 on this list because it’s “still a thing” and if a case is ever reported again in the US, I am convinced that people will just melt. Nope.They are going to melt.