For most of us, when we are children, we have a clear-cut definition of family. They are our Parents, Sisters, Brothers, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and everything in between. However, as we age, our own definitions of family begin to shift. It is augmented to the way we live, love, and the geography we choose. This is where the simple definition of family, becomes more complex.
Ask yourself this question, is there someone in your life other than immediate familial relations, who you might turn to first for comfort, advice, or to tell a great joke to? If you answered yes to this, then you probably have a few people in your life that could be considered family of choice. For some people, family of choice is all they have ever known. For instance, if you were orphaned, then every person you may consider family could possibly fall into this category.
You may also be or know people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered. They perhaps may prefer their family of choice to bloodline family members, due to being ostracized for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our world is evolving at a rapid pace, and civil liberty is a core definition of who we are and how we see ourselves being, living and loving.
Since starting my mission in Senior Care almost 30 years ago, one key element has always been my focus, who is this person entrusted to my care, and how can I make the most beneficial and meaningful impact on their quality of life? I have learned many things along the way that I feel have made me better equipped to provide compassionate care:
First off, our lens needs to be in tune to the many colors of the prism. Growing up in an all-Caucasian community, often-added weight to the term, I don’t see peoples color of skin, just the person. I have since learned just how limiting that stance can be, as we must see color and diversity, and recognize the variations in how people view life events and surroundings. If we are Caucasian by birth we must remember, that life for us has more than likely been complimented with heightened privileges; more so than those of our friends and family of different color and race origins.
Second, we must learn to be adaptive to specific needs and challenges that those around us might face, whether its sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or religious choices. As we age, we begin to appreciate, with more clarity, these differences. We become less in tune with our own ideals, and more in tune to how others may perceive our actions and communication styles. So, when we hear a woman we care for discussing her Life Partner, we should never make an assumption that she is talking about a Husband. She could very well be talking about her wife. When we hear a gay man state that his dogs are equivalent to him, as our children are to us, then that is part of his family of choice.
When looking for options in aging, keep one thought in mind accept no barriers or roadblocks to your life choices. Do not live out your golden years with any element of fear of those who provide care, and most importantly remember–It is your life, and no one elses! Celebrate it, and live it surrounded by the many colors of the spectrum that nature has provided! Dont be afraid to alter your lens, laugh as much as possible, and cherish those you love the most, whether two legged or four!