Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Many Ways Men Shave

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I am standing at the sink with an 82 year old gentleman this morning working on ADLs (activities of daily living) , specifically grooming (brushing teeth, combing hair, shaving). Albert starts applying shaving cream to his face with slow, deliberate movements using his right fingertips. During the wait, I watch him as he smears his cheeks, moustache, and chin. Then I notice him turn his right hand over, squeezing Barbasol onto the outer center of his index and middle fingers before bending them to wipe up his neck. Pretty adaptive, since he has trouble bending his head back!

So, this shaving almost 16 years of practice, I have come to find it pretty interesting! Shaving is one of my favorite ADLs. I love to do touch up! I have a firm but gentle hand and know how to pull the neck skin up over the jawline perfectly to get a close shave. Remember, these older gentlemen have loose skin.

'Shaving Cream' (1946) by Singer-Songwriter Benny Bell
(There are over 14,700 YouTube videos on shaving!)

Did you know every man has his own individual method of shaving? Some start with long, strong strokes from the temple to the jawline. Some start the razor blade just under the nose and take short swipes down to the top lip.

Some shave vertically from the lower lip to the chin, using the tongue pushed out to tighten the skin, while others pull their lips into a wide "long e" (as in a,e,i,o,u) and slide the razor horizontally and slightly curved along the lower lip line.

Some shave up the neck; others, down. Some keep the water running; others turn it on and off to tap the razor in the base of the sink.

Albert does something this morning I have never seen. He runs a thin line of water out of the tap, turns the razor sideways under it, then click, click, clicks the end of the razor blade against the top of the faucet...

I realize that I am smiling broadly as I look at him through the mirror.

He looks up into my reflection. "What is it?" he asks.

"I'm just learning from you, Albert. I never realized until this moment that men have so many different ways of shaving..."

Friday, October 7, 2011


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I'm working with Jules in her room this morning when I hear the most beautiful sounds coming from the piano in the front sitting room of the nursing facility.  The granddaughter of one of the residents is playing the theme song from a movie called The Piano by Michael Nyman. Take a listen while you read....

Her  interpretation is so emotionally touching that Jules comments softly, "That girl has such a soft hand!"

We finish putting the Cam boot on Jules' leg for her fractured ankle, and she transfers into a wheelchair.

"Would you like to listen to one song on our way to the gym?"

"Oh, yes!" I am relieved that Jules wants one song. I do, too. Sometimes you share a few moments with a patient that will propel the treatment forward unexpectedly.

This is exactly what happens.

We roll into the sitting room to find a young tatooed woman with black hair highlighted with bright red, adorned with a gold nose ring, playing the piano.

She plays us a song she has written herself. It sounds as if she could be a composer/musician for Wyndham Hill. Afterward, she shares that she has been a foster child to the daughter of one of our residents, and while she feels a connection to her grandmother, she has struggled greatly with her foster mother. It is the frustrating push and pull  of the maternal relationship she struggles with as a young adult that drives her fingers along the ivory keys with such feeling.

Her music changes the course of both of our days. Jules is radiant and energetic after the song. We go into an amazing treatment session after which I tell Jules that this is the transition point. This is the day she turned the corner in her treatment. She is excelerating toward much improved health and is closer to discharging to home.

The young musician stays on my mind throughout the day.

In a quantum moment, I am reminded of the angst my son felt when he was young. It has, no doubt, contributed to the passion with which he now performs as a classical oboist in Boston. I ponder over the hardships of my life that have honed my ability to feel genuine compassion for people in emotional crisis, especially when they verbalize consequences of difficult life decisions and shed tears over their children.

I'm not saying that we have to experience hardship to be great at what we do.  I am saying that when we feel intense emotional conviction and need an outlet for that energy, it can act as a springboard for immeasureable creativity and connection to others.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lesson of the Day: Forgiveness

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Last Friday, Ilene and I were facing each other; she was on the therapy mat, and I was on a rolling stool five feet from her, exercising her arms and challenging her sitting balance. She reached up with her right hand to rub her neck.

"Do you still have that spasm?" I asked her.

"Yes! It won't go away! I don't know what to do. I took that pill (flexiril) last night, and I couldn't even get up to go to the bathroom. My legs would not  work! The aide had to give me the bedpan. I'll never take that pill again."

(Not good!)

I decided to take a route I travel with alot of my patients, and it goes a little deeper than a doctor prescribing a pill. It has to do with identifying relationships, situations or grievances from your life that contribute to mental and emotional blocks to healing your physical body.

There is a school of thought that says our bodies tell us when something is wrong in our lives, and there is symbolism behind the location of our symptoms. If you are interested in reading about it, there are a lot of books on the subject. My favorite author on the subject is Caroline Myss.

I asked Ilene, "Who or what is the pain in your neck? Think about it. What is bothering you that you haven't let go of?"

That led into a conversation about a broken relationship with a daughter that came to a head two years ago when the daughter literally kicked her out of her house. For a full day she had no idea what she would do or where she would go. She ended up moving hours away into her other daughter's home, but she had not spoken to daughter #1 since that incident.

I asked her a hard question. "Have you forgiven her?"

"No. I can't forget what she did to me."

"Ilene, I'm going to tell you something that may be difficult to believe, but please listen to me. I tell you this because I learned this through some heartbreaking experiences with my own children. If you don't forgive someone who has hurt you, you only continue to hurt yourself. You don't hurt the one who has hurt you. You hurt yourself."

She looked at me. "I never thought about that."

We talked more about the situation with her daughter. I knew I had to tell her about a book that had made a huge difference in my life. I had picked it up by fluke in a bookstore.

In this book is an amazing forgiveness intention that I have said quite often. I told her that even if she didn't feel an immediate change, if she continued to say this intention, she would at some point feel a melting away of the anger, hurt, bitterness, (name the emotion) associated with the incident, and she would realize that she had let it go. She would no longer hold the pain of it so tightly into herself. She would forgive.

I shared the forgiveness intention with Ilene:

(To: Person I Need to Forgive)
I forgive you completely and freely.
I release you and let you go.
So far as I am concerned,
the incident that happened between us
is finished forever.
I wish the best for you.
I wish for you your highest good.
I hold you in the light.
I am free, and you are free,
and all again is well between us.
Peace be with you.

(You can turn this around to set the intention that someone forgives you.)

Ilene looked up at me. "Thank you. I will do this. I will say it morning and night. I will try to forgive her."

The weekend came and went. I asked her Monday how her weekend had been. She had told me about her other daughters' visit. "I told them about the forgiveness prayer," she said. "I shared it with them. They thought it was a good idea. They are going to try it, too."

(pass it forward, yah!)

Later in the treatment, "How's your neck?"  I noticed no bulging spasm.

"You know, it's gone, and I didn't realize it til now. Gracious!"

(my heart welled up..thank you, God!)

Awareness...I'll have to write about that some other time.

In the meantime, I continue to say the forgiveness intention daily. Right now, I need to say it for a challenging friendship. We can even say it for the person who cut us off in traffic or the person at work who irritates us.

who needs forgiveness in your life?
Who do you want to forgive you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lesson of the Day: Manage Daily Stress

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I was a little surprised at myself today when I realized that I had been a real "b" last night when I talked to my twin sister. What I hadn't connected at the time was that I was dreading to start the work week. It was stressing me out!

What has happened?! I've always said I love what I do!

I still do. I just don't always love where I do it.

I asked myself most of the day, "What am I doing here?" when what I really wanted to do was stay home out of the cold rain, put on a pot of chicken soup and roll up in my favorite fuzzy blanket.

This is one of those assignments where you would absolutely not want to be a brand new therapist who took the travel route to make the higher wage.

October 1st was a new day for Medicare changes in skilled nursing facilities.
I am supportive of the change because I believe every government agency should be analyzing how to cut costs. It does, however, put a lot more pressure on therapists in small buildings to manage their patient caseloads with consistency (stressful!). Bottom line: it affects the income to the building.

I'm trying to help my building manage these changes during the two-week absence of the physical therapist.

Ilene is my first patient of the day. I evaluated Ilene the day I arrived in this new building just 3 weeks ago, and since then, she has been my star pupil. She walks down to the therapy room with her walker, back and neck nearly straight, a 180 degree difference from the day I met her. We have worked hard to improve her posture and core strength! Today, she lays a lovely little scarf on the table.

"I donated 30 of these to the building. I love to knit, and they are going to give them to residents who don't have any family members to give them gifts at Christmas. I want you to have this one."

I pick up the scarf. How sweet this lady is. The tension in her stitches is just perfect. I tell her that. I have a keen eye for crafts, having been taught most of them by both of my grandmothers.

"I had an unexpected visit from two of my daughters this weekend, and they could not believe how great I am doing! I walked with them everywhere, even outside. They both noticed how well I can keep my head and shoulders up now. I told them I was doing so well because of you."

I glanced into her eyes, and I saw appreciation.  How did she know this was just what my tentative heart needed today?

I'm lucky because there are amazing older people who tell me every week how much of a difference I make in their lives. Not everyone receives kudos like that in their jobs.

Did you know that dissatisfaction with your job affects your health and the health of your children?

There is a lot of info on the internet about job stress and mental health; job stress and physical health, how to manage job stress, and how to practice stress reduction techniques.

Personally, I like chocolate, hot tea, meditation, a walk on the rocky beach above the ocean, or rubbing my hands with warm lotion, cooking and talking through the tough stuff with a couple trusted friends.

Research and numerous articles list breathwork, yoga, meditation, exercise and sex as good stress relievers. Some blogs discuss leaving jobs that are stressful and dissatisfying.

There's no question that if this was a permanent position, I would be fleeing out the door. I know I am temporary and that I will be leaving here in January. For others who may consider leaving a dissatisfying position, Anuradha Mayer for Excelle has some great advice:

1) Show professionalism no matter what.
2) Transition responsibly.
3) Be a class act.
4) Finish with style.

A nice reminder, I think, for when I may be tempted to say or do something that isn't professional, responsible, classy or stylish....