Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
During my interview with the Army Chaplin, he explained that he had always wanted to help people, and he felt naturally drawn to serving those who needed somebody. He did not think they necessarily needed him but they needed somebody. He had seen many people be cruel to those who needed care, and though if he entered the field, it would be one less spot open for somebody like that available. Throughout the interview, he showed signs of having used the decision-making model to choose his career path. He had an internal problem, which signaled communication. Though he did not enlist a counselor, he had already assessed whom he was and what he wanted to do with his life. For a while, he thought about being a doctor but eventually saw his skill set would best be suited as an Army Chaplain. His grandfather had been one and he was able to surmise that he would be a good fit, as his grandfather had been. He took action, enlisting, and becoming an Army Chaplin, rising through the ranks until he was in a position to help people. He admitted that getting used to helping people all of the time, and lending yourself as a resource when people need it was a transition he was not entirely prepared for, but assumed it was something one could prepare for until they were in the midst of it. Overall, however, he is still happy in his position.
As a Chaplain, he helps many people and deals with many issues, including long-term care of the elderly and end-of-life issues. He provides a significant amount of spiritual guidance to all around him, due in part to his theological school, as well as his rank. Elderly individuals who are attempting to reconcile with the finality of their death seek him out for comfort. As a service he provides, he counsels them on their end-of-life issues, and cares for them spiritually in their old age. He was traditionally Christian, but appeared open-minded when it came to his “patients .” He thought this was necessary to serve his people better. He attempted to consider the individual’s entire life when counseling them on the death and dying process, to incorporate family members, cultural traditions, age, and family structure in order to make the process as easy as possible for the individual.
Thus far, he has found the work to be very rewarding. He admitted it was taxing at times, but fulfilling to know that he was helping to bring peace to those who needed it most. He found it most challenging to bond with so many people, and then watch them slip away. “I have lost a lot of friends,” he mused. He cares deeply for each of the people he helps, and makes it a point to assess the families and living situation in order to make sure the elderly individuals he counsels are not being mistreated in any way. “It would be wrong to have them hurt. Letting go is painful enough,” as he stated.
My family of origin views caring for the elderly as neither a burden, nor a blessing. It is simply something you do for a family member. They are reaching the end of their life and need to be surrounded by family, and comforted by familiar presences. Therefore, if we are able, we all try to do our part in making that happen. The process of death has no specific view in my family. It happens when it happens. We have had family members die in their 90s and some unfortunate deaths that happened within months of birth. We know an individual can go at any time, and we just try to enjoy the time we have with one another.
My family does not typical grieve together, discounting the funeral itself. We grieve separately for older relatives who have died. When we are together, however, the mood is melancholy and sad, but we attempt to remember the happy memories left by the individual. No member in my family would want to think we were left crying about their passing. The only true belief we hold is attempting to do them that courtesy. Some relatives, however, take it harder than others do. When two relatives share an extremely close bond, and one dies, it can be crippling. For example, when my grandfather passed, we did our best to share happy stories about him. My grandmother was able to for a while, but she spent nine months primarily in mourning.
My culture copes and cares for the elderly as many other cultures care and cope for the elderly. I am aware that I differ highly from the Japanese, and several other Asian communities. Not only do they consider it a great honor to grow old, but they consider it a great honor to care for the elderly. While my culture cares for the elderly because we value family, the Japanese care for the elderly because the value the elderly and all of the wisdom they have to share. Not being afraid of death, but embracing the wisdom age gives you is a highly cherished virtue in Japan . Cultural education such as this, and the cultural diversification the Army Chaplain explained to me, will be important to my work for several reasons. It will allow me to understand how other cultures care for, look at, and grieve for their dying, as well as their dead. With this information, I can better care for the individual within the contexts of his or her own culture, making him or her feel more comfortable, while showing the utmost respect to their family and the process they are going through as they watch an elderly relative die.
Davis, J. L. (2012). Improving Outcomes: Effectiveness of Caregiver Psychoeducation and Skills Training. American Psychological Journal, 56-62.
Löckenhoff, C. E., Duberstein, P. R., Friedman, B., & Costa Jr., P. T. (2011). Five-factor personality traits and subjective health among caregivers: The role of caregiver strain and self-efficacy. Psychology and Aging, 592-604.