Sensitivity training

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The story of Tithonus serves as one of Greek mythology’s more cautionary tales. According to legend, he was a handsome young man who sought immortal life. As they say, be careful what you ask for.

While the gods granted immortality, they neglected to throw in permanent youth. So rather than enjoying his long years, he comes to yearn for death. After all, what good is a long life if one has to experience it in a decaying vessel of a body?

There are probably millions of older people in this country who can relate to Tithonus’ situation. While living may beat the alternative, outliving one’s family, friends and resources while aging takes its toll can be a real character builder. And it’s not exactly a picnic for children who are suddenly thrust into the role of de facto caregivers.

These points were really driven home as I watched “Caring for Your Parents.” The program aired last week nationwide on PBS affiliates. This documentary takes a close look at five families in and around Providence, RI, as they deal with aging parents. Even if you’re a tough-as-nails eldercare veteran, it’s hard not to be moved by their pain and fortitude.

Watch your PBS local listings for rebroadcasts of this show (they vary). You may also want to get a copy of this video if you’re looking for an excellent in-service presentation. It will almost certainly help your team treat residents with more empathy. Just as important, it will remind them of what your residents’ families have gone through – and continue to experience.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.