This past Friday, I went back to work at one of the nursing homes where I provide psychological services. As I always do, I request a current copy of the facility’s census.
I soon noticed that several of the residents on my caseload were missing from the current census. I then communicated with the director of nursing about this issue.
The director of nursing informed me that three residents had passed away while I was out on medical leave. Another resident finally was discharged home.
Of course, this situation is not uncommon when working with a geriatric population. I reflected upon the time that I had spent with each of those individuals who had passed away. I hoped that I had somehow provided a sense of comfort, plus a listening ear, during the end of their lives.
I rejoiced that one resident had been discharged home; each week, he would mention how much he missed seeing his precious granddaughters. He happened to be a Vietnam veteran. Decades after his service, he was still consumed with guilt about what he had been asked to do.
All clinical psychologists risk becoming attached to their clients. Some of them affect us more profoundly than others. Our frequent interactions leave an impression upon both of us.
Decades after having first become licensed as a clinical psychologist, I still view my work as an immense opportunity and privilege.