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Humble Brag: Learn Why Family Members Trust Me

“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”

-Potter Stewart

A photo by NPR of a cricket. It doesn’t look like the famous image of Jiminy Cricket at all . . .

A photo by NPR of a cricket. It doesn’t look like the famous image of Jiminy Cricket at all . . .

I first came to understand the idea of having a conscience when I watched Disney’s Pinocchio as a child. Jiminy Cricket warbled about using your conscience as your guide to help you determine what was “right” or “wrong” in life. I loved the idea of having a voice in my head helping me sort through daily challenges in my childhood, like if I should “borrow” my sister’s shirt without asking her.

You know, important things.

As an adult, I’ve always felt like my ethical skills were on point in all other aspects of my life, especially in my career. As a small business owner, you definitely want to keep a good reputation of upholding ethical standards. Time to humble brag: personally, I don’t think I could behave unethically. I’m too much of a routine, stickler.

I wanted to share this week’s blog about an instance this past week where my personal Jiminy piped up when I was working with a client, with the fake name of Agatha.

Photo of a woman wearing a hat and smiling at the camera by Unsplash.

Photo of a woman wearing a hat and smiling at the camera by Unsplash.

Agatha is a repeat client who I love dearly because of her sweet and welcoming personality. Unfortunately, Agatha has had quite a few falls in her home, which led her to becoming very familiar with local emergency personnel. She’s loved the home modifications I’ve done in the past for her shower, toilet, and bedroom. Lately, we’ve been making plans to change her front porch to make it easier to get to the mailbox.

After collaborating with the contractor, we came up with a plan to elevate the height of the front porch to meet with the flooring at the front door. When talking to Agatha about these plans, she told me she couldn’t quite understand how the front porch would look, particularly the steps. “How will people coming up the steps tell them apart?” I was confused by her question, but I reassured her that I would show her a picture in the bid for her to see how it would look.

Photo of zero step entry by Journal of Light Construction.

Photo of zero step entry by Journal of Light Construction.

Agatha is tech savvy, so I emailed her the bid with a picture attached showing how the front porch would look when the project was completed. Even though she looked at the picture on her tablet, Agatha did not understand what we were doing to her porch. “Not a problem!” I replied, “I’ll mail you a paper copy of the picture.” 

When the paper copy arrived, Agatha regrettably informed me that she still couldn’t make sense of the plan. It was important to me for her to fully understand and agree to the changes to her front porch before beginning the project, so I visited Agatha and explained what the contractor was going to do while she watched me point out dimensions on her front porch. “Sorry, honey, I still don’t get it. Can you draw me a picture?”

This is the point where my personal Jiminy Cricket took out a giant red flag and started waving it around. “Oh no,” I thought, “Agatha might be showing a cognitive decline.” 

I mean, we all learn in different ways. Some people need to learn hands on while others simply listen to new information. I personally need to listen and look at written words to truly understand a new concept.

In past projects, Agatha only needed to listen to a description to understand what we were going to do. At this point for the front porch project, I’d explained it to her using four different mediums.

Sound the alarm! Something’s amiss! (Awooga! Awooga!)

As part of my training to become an occupational therapist, I have the ability to spot potential cognitive problems and perform testing to confirm if something is going on. So based off my observations and past experience with Agatha, I concluded:

Photo of family members sitting outside facing mountains by Unsplash

Photo of family members sitting outside facing mountains by Unsplash

It was time to involve the family!

When I feel like an older adult client is not fully understanding a home project, I NEED the family to be a part of the decision making. If you’re not aware, there’s way too much elder abuse with finances that goes unreported. I don’t want anyone to mistake my actions ever! Not only that, I want to make sure that changes made to the home are understood and approved by the client and family members involved in taking care of that client.

So I asked Agatha if I could talk with one of her children and bring her on board with what we were planning. Agatha agreed and I breathed a sigh of relief. I called her daughter, Christie, and explained the cognitive change I saw in Agatha. (Sometimes, you need a professional to clearly see changes in your parent). Christie was not aware that her mom was starting to struggle with decisions in that way. We also talked about the plans to modify the front porch to make it easier for Agatha to get the mail without falling. 

“Thank you so much for making me a part of this.” I heard sincere comfort in Christie’s tone of voice. I was a little taken aback, “Of course, I couldn’t move on without letting a family member know my concerns.” Later on, I realized that Christie reacted that way because she has legitimate fears about her mother’s welfare. Christie probably doesn’t want Agatha to be taken advantage of. And she felt good that I reached out to let her know that I’m concerned about her mom’s welfare, too!

Overall, I’m happy that I made Christie and Agatha feel more at ease before starting to work on the front porch. I don’t think it would sit right with me if my client didn’t fully understand what was happening before everything went into motion. It’s worthwhile to wait and make sure everyone is okay with home modification projects, especially projects for older members of our community.

How would you feel if your parent or grandparent was in the same boat? Would you like for a service provider to ask to speak to you? Should all service providers reach out to the family before starting a home project? Or do you think I’m overstepping my boundaries? Have you had this experience before with a loved one? Share in the comments below!