Renee Kinder

Our house is for sale, we have a showing in 20 minutes, and this place looks like, well, a house that has five kids.

I load everyone in the van, five kids, one golden, two dachshunds, everyone’s backpacks and shoes, and snacks to hold us over for the next hour. And then I hear a whine …

Not just any whine …

Parents, you know what I am talking about. The whine that someone is about to vomit.

It’s disgusting, I know, but this is real world stuff.

I yell from upstairs where I am cleaning a bathroom and in my calmest voice tell Joseph, “GET ISAAC A TRASH CAN BECAUSE HE IS GOING TO UPCHUCK!”

Then we proceed to drive around for an hour while our house is showing. With five kids and three dogs, while watching the Smurfs, while Isaac holds tight to a trash can.

Just another day in the life of a parent.

We know: Others come first, You have to keep calm, and it is Never your way.

The role of a parent and the role of a therapist present themselves with similar themes.

The obvious ones are around general caregiving, looking out for the welfare of another person, and, of course, the need for patience.

The largest theme that I have seen, however, is in recognizing the need for and importance of individuality and person-centeredness.

Recently, I was shocked that my daughter Kathryn did not understand the value of motherhood and how it has impacted me as a therapist.

I realized her lack of clarity when listening to her speak to our 6-year old, Isaac, about his “Magical, Magical Me” program.

The first line of the first song of this program begins as follows: “Magical, Magical Me. I can be anything I want to be …”

Isaac initially wanted to be a police officer. And then he wanted to be a ninja.

And then he wanted to be a Dad and mentioned that one of his friends was going to be a Mom.

I can hear the eye-rolling in Kathryn’s voice three rows behind me in the van, as she says, “Yeah Isaac, every year they make someone be a Mom and a Dad, but that is not really a job that gets you anywhere.”

My dear Kathryn, how I have failed you.

Motherhood, you see, has likely played the largest role in how I approach care for patients and collaboration with others.

More than all those graduate classes. More than all the articles and research we read as professionals, and, yes, more than the clinical practicums we all endure to gain licensure as a therapist.

Motherhood and its life lessons take the cake when it comes to making connections with therapy patients.

Lesson #1: It is not all about you.

I have learned through motherhood how to navigate a variety of complex and unique personalities in hopes that everyone’s distinct differences can shine.

Similar is the case when we provide therapy to an individual patient. Therapists must have the realization that no two patients are the same, no two skilled approaches will ever always work exactly the same way, and as a result, no two treatment plans should ever look the same.

Lesson #2: Keep calm, and understand others.

I have learned the value of staying calm during a storm with patients, co-workers and children.

As an example, once a year I take all five of our children for their yearly physicals. It is a bit of a marathon and requires a lot of patience and coordination, but most importantly, it requires me to keep my cool.

Every year the pediatrician says the same thing to me: “How do you stay so calm.”

And every year I give her the same response, which I whisper, “Don’t you know they can sense fear? If I get worked up, this is all going downhill fast.”

Additionally, as therapists we are presented with patients who come to us after illness, injury, various levels of acute onsets and a multitude of medical complexities.

Medicare is clear in updated language provided within the state operations manual that adherence to resident rights could be in noncompliance when “a resident has not been treated equally as compared to others based on his or her diagnosis, severity of condition, or payment source.”

Our ability to stay cool, calm and collected during care, regardless of severity, condition or diagnosis, is imperative and allows us to deliver care appropriately and in an individualized manner, regardless of patient presentation.  

Lesson #3: It’s my way or the … Well, OK, it is not my way it is your way.

And perhaps most importantly, I have learned the value of letting go as there is really no value in always being in charge. It is exhausting and stifling to those around you.

I did not have this level of peace with our first born, and it shows in his personality. He is rigid, requires a lot of structure, and tends to be more headstrong with his opinions.

After the first born however — and we all ruin the first born — I can see a clear rise in the level of relaxed and laid back personalities. I have also noted an increase in their openness and perceived freedom they have in expressing themselves and their personalities.

My thought is that it comes from increased choice and me learning that a “my way or the highway” approach only leads to struggles on both ends.

Similar themes should be incorporated in patient care.

And, of course, we are all seeing an increased awareness here with the implementation of the new survey process last fall allowing for greater focus on resident choice and person-directed care.

So, I must say to you, my sweet Kathryn, motherhood is a job that has gotten me somewhere. It’s the only job that has truly gotten me anywhere, and you, my dear, are part of the reason I have stories here to share.

Renee Kinder, MS, CCC-SLP, RAC-CT, is Director of Clinical Education for Encore Rehabilitation and is the Silver Award winner in the 2018 American Society of Business Publishing Editors competition for the Upper Midwest Region in the Service/How To Blogs category. Additionally, she serves as Gerontology Professional Development Manager for the American Speech Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) gerontology special interest group, is a member of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine community faculty, and is an advisor to the American Medical Association’s Relative Value Update Committee (RUC) Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee (HCPAC).