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Jun 12, 2024

Dr. Christina Prevett // #GeriOnICE // www.ptonice.com 

In today's episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, join Modern Management of the Older Adult division leader Christina Prevett as she discusses experiencing loss, processing grief, and its impact on being a geriatric clinician.

Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes, or check out the full show notes on our blog at www.ptonice.com/blog.

If you're looking to learn more about live courses designed to better serve older adults in physical therapy or our online physical therapy courses, check our entire list of continuing education courses for physical therapy including our physical therapy certifications by checking out our website. Don't forget about all of our FREE eBooks, prebuilt workshops, free CEUs, and other physical therapy continuing education on our Resources tab.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

INTRODUCTION
Hey everyone, Alan here, Chief Operating Officer here at ICE. Before we get into today's episode, I'd like to introduce our sponsor, Jane, a clinic management software and EMR with a human touch. Whether you're switching your software or going paperless for the first time ever, the Jane team knows that the onboarding process can feel a little overwhelming. That's why with Jane, you don't just get software, you get a whole team. Including in every Jane subscription is their new award-winning customer support available by phone, email, or chat whenever you need it, even on Saturdays. You can also book a free account setup consultation to review your account and ensure that you feel confident about going live with your switch. And if you'd like some extra advice along the way, you can tap into a lovely community of practitioners, clinic owners, and front desk staff through Jane's community Facebook group. If you're interested in making the switch to Jane, head on over to jane.app.switch to book a one-on-one demo with a member of Jane's support team. Don't forget to mention code IcePT1MO at the time of sign up for a one month free grace period on your new Jane account.

CHRISTINA PREVETT
Hello everyone and welcome to the PT on ICE Daily Show. My name is Christina Prevett. I am one of the lead faculty within our geriatric division and today I want to talk a little bit about grief. This is kind of a personal conversation, but it's also one that I think is really important when we are working with older adults. So personally, I've kind of been speaking a little bit on my social media. I lost somebody very close to me very recently. So I lost my godmother. She was my aunt. She was in my top 10 list of favorite people and she was somebody who had battled cancer a long time ago. They found out a couple of weeks ago that she had a metastasis in her brain and her first radiation she didn't do very well and she passed away like very very suddenly. And to say that this rocked me, like, I don't know if I'm going to keep it together on this podcast. I'm going to try. But to say that this rocked me was like an understatement of the world. And it was devastating. I'm still not OK. And it made me think a lot about grief. So I am 34 years old. And over the last two and a half years, I have lost three people that are really close to me. I lost an uncle that was my dad's best friend, my aunt who was my mom's best friend, which means that they were around us all the time, and I lost my grandmother who I was really close to. And as I was reflecting on this most recent loss, which my aunt was probably the closest person that I have ever lost, I reflected a lot on the process of grief and I thought a lot about how my older adults must feel. And so it reminded me of a conversation that I had with my grandmother. So my grandmother passed away just shy, a month shy of her 98th birthday. She lived a very long life. Her husband was alive until he was 93. And she was just this incredible role model of successful aging. somebody who was able to keep cognitive capacities, physical capacities in the realm of what she wanted for a very long time. And I was having a heart-to-heart with her one time, and I'm sure many of you have had similar conversations with loved ones that have lived a long life. And I said, you know, Grandma, I want to be like you and live to 100, because at that time I was certain she was going to be a centurion. And she turned to me and she said, you don't really want to live to 100. And I asked her why, and she's like, because everybody around you is dead. And to be somebody at, I'm 34 years old, to have had this feeling of accumulated loss, I'm only starting to potentially scratch the surface of what she could possibly mean and what all of our or so many of our older adults may be experiencing in their life. And so while I feel the acute sting of losing somebody really close to me, what I'm also like really recognizing is that there's also a accumulation effect that weighs heavily on my heart around having multiple people that I've been really close to that have passed away. And if I am feeling that at 34, I can only imagine how many of my older adults are feeling when it comes to, you know, they've lost parents, all parents, both parents, their in-laws' parents. They may have lost siblings or, God forbid, kids. Like there's friends and family, like you know, there's jokes around how our older adults are one of their social calls is going to funerals because they experience loss around them so frequently. And I never truly appreciated, I think, how much of a toll that would take on an individual's soul and their experience in some of their zest for life until I felt like some of the accumulated effects over a relatively short amount of time of experiencing a significant amount of loss. what this got me to think about is the way that we interact with grief with our older adults. And when we, really as a culture, how we interact with grief. And so I had one of our TAs, Rachel Moore, she's one of our lead faculty for Pelvic. We were having conversations about this and she said, you know, it's so interesting because everything else just keeps going and you feel like you're stuck in this loop of, oh my gosh, this person has left. And it's true, right? We are with individuals in that short amount of time where we're doing funeral preparations and all those types of things, but that grief weighs heavily on a person's soul and on a person's mind. And we don't really teach individuals how to deal with grief. And when it comes to older adults, we oftentimes think that this is such a normal part of the aging process that I don't think we ever truly hold space for individuals when they are dealing with grief. And so when I was reading a book called Breaking the Age Code, this really came front of mind. So we talk at an MMOA about the psychosocial considerations of working with older adults, about how it can be so great for us to put a heavy deadlift in their hand or get them getting up off the floor for the first time in a decade. And all of those things are really wonderful. But if there are other buckets that are just leaking because they do not have the financial resources, the mental resources, or the skills in order to help with these big buckets that are truly just hemorrhaging, then we're not really gonna give them the best type of care. And when I was reading a book called Breaking the Age Code, it really came front of mind for me about this. where when we look at mental health disorders, and not to say that grief is not a very healthy expression of sadness, but Becca Levy, who wrote The Code Breaking the Age Code, she's the one that we talk about with all of our ageism literature. She wrote a section in this book, her book on mental health, and she talks a lot about how the knee-jerk reaction with our older adults is to give them anxiolytics and antidepressants, without truly leaning into grief and leaning into talk therapies and conservative cognitive behavioral therapies that can just be so, so beneficial when we're working with our older adults. And she described some literature where she actually said, you know, many of our older adults may do even better with talk therapies than some of our younger individuals do because they're creating that connection so intensely. are craving those skill sets that they need in order to make it through their day because their grief is so heavy and your grief doesn't just last for two weeks. And so I was reading, kind of thinking about all this and the weight of grief and the thoughts around grief and how this relates to our older adults and how personally this is relating to me. I started reading a book called The Collected Regrets of Clover and there was a couple of things that they really talked about that I think is helpful for the way that I'm approaching now or thinking about approaching conversations with some of my older adults that I am working with who are experiencing loss or who have disclosed to me that they have lost a lot of people that are close to them. This book is it's fiction. It is so beautiful. It talks about a woman who is a death doula who basically comes and supports individuals through the end of their life. Similar to how a postpartum doula would help a new baby come into the world or a pregnancy postpartum doula, a death doula helps people end their life and end their life on their terms. And they talk about how when we're thinking about grief, First, it's this large weight that is on their frame. And as time passes, that big backpack turns into a purse. And what she's saying is that your grief is always carried with you, but the weight of it becomes easier to carry with time. It never goes away, but we start to be able to function in some ways with it. And I think that's really such a powerful thing to speak to. And when we are working with our older adults, they may be holding a lot of purses. They may be carrying a lot of bags of loss in the non-literal sense that can create this expression of apathy or a lack of engagement, which can sometimes create this space where it may be hard for individuals to engage with us in rehab. sometimes being able to dig deep into some of those considerations and create resources for them can be one of the best things that we can do. And so in this book, she had this quote and I read it on my Instagram a couple of weeks ago, but I'm going to read it to you now. And then we're going to finish off this podcast with a couple of things that I'm thinking about as a geriatric clinician to recognize that there is a lot of grief with our people that we are working with that we cannot see that are influencing who they are and how they show up in the world. And so in this book, this was literally the fifth page in. So if you're a fiction reader, this is such a beautiful book, but they said the most important thing is never to look away from someone's pain, not just the physical pain of their body shutting down, which we see all the time in rehab, right? But the emotional pain of watching their life end while knowing they could have lived it better. Giving someone the chance to be seen at their most vulnerable is much more healing than any words. And it was my honor to do that, to look them in the eye and acknowledge their hurt, to let it exist undiluted, even when the sadness was overwhelming. And so to put this into the context of rehab, I think there's a couple of things that I can think of as a clinician. And the first is that physical vulnerability and emotional grief, they are challenging to navigate. And we want to recognize that not only are we working with individuals who have low physical reserve, but there is an emotional piece of recognizing the loss of physical capacities and the emotional load of the loss of people that love them and they loved. as they get older. So my dad is 67. He has lost his mom, his brother, his best friend, and another friend from school in the last two years. And he's like, this might be it for me. All these people that I planned my retirement with are no longer with me. And I don't want to go to the golf courses anymore. I don't want to engage in physical activity because the people that I wanted to engage in physical activity with are no longer there. diving deep into some of those conversations, we say at MMOA to get truly curious, but not only physically curious about the things that drive individuals, but emotionally curious about maybe some of the things that are holding them back. And I think that can be a really, really wonderful way to get into some of the barriers and recognize that it's a little bit more complicated than them just not wanting to engage in doing squats with us, right? And so that's kind of number one. Number two is it's heavy for us to be able to listen to things that are really sad, but we can have a very big role in trying to mend and heal some individuals who do not have somebody to talk to. We have a loneliness epidemic in our older adult spaces, really all over our generations, but that is compounded, that loneliness is compounded when the people that you are not lonely with have passed away. And so recognizing trying to create resources, whether that is resources within the community like seniors associations or gyms where individuals can connect and have new kinships, especially in the face of loss when they are ready to. is one way for us to create resources and networks. But additionally, having a person that you can refer that is a psychologist, a talk therapist, a psychiatrist too, but where the knee-jerk reaction isn't just prescribing medications. And I am not anti-medication, do not mishear me, but I think that the addition of, you know, our conservative side, we talk about how we are not anti-surgery, we are conservative management forward. Why are we not applying this same mindset when we are working with our older adults who are dealing with really heavy emotions and maybe have never been taught how to deal with grief? I am a parent who is trying to not hide, but make appropriate the work that, you know, of grief and grief processing with my five-year-old. And I am acutely aware of trying to teach her skills to manage sad emotions. But so many of our older adults don't, they don't have those skills. And so it's important for us to recognize some of those resources. And so where I'm going to challenge you all today is one, to lean into these conversations if you have them with some of your older adults. But two, is to do a quick Google search to see if you can find a talk therapist in your area that you could have in your referral network when these conversations do come up. And inevitably, if you're working in geriatrics, the concept of grief and loss will come up. I recognize that in the United States and in Canada, one of the hardest things is finding someone who's in network or taking Medicare and finding somebody who doesn't have a super long wait list. I totally recognize that. It may require a little bit of digging deeper and that can oftentimes be one of the biggest barriers for individuals seeking care through talk therapy and why our primary care physicians are leaning into med management. But sometimes, you know, the best thing we can do is try and find some providers, find individuals who work with older adults on the regular, and try and create those bridges and those connections when appropriate. All right, I hope you found that helpful. I kept it together pretty good, I think, considering all things considered. If you are looking to get into some of our older adult live courses for the summer, we have a couple of opportunities coming up. Our last opportunity in June is in Charlotte, North Carolina with Julie. That is June 22nd and 23rd. In July, we have three courses going. We have Virginia Beach, July 13th, 14th. Jeff Musgrave is up in Victor, New York, July 20th and 21st. And if you truly want the full experience of all of our MMOA faculty and staff, we have our MMOA Summit where Dustin and I are going to be teaching the course, but all of our teaching assistants and other lead faculty are going to be there. That is going to be in Littleton, Colorado, July 27th, 28th. That is going to be a super fun time if you are interested in hanging out with all of us and geeking out about older adult care, like that is the time to take MMOA Live. So if you have any other thoughts, questions, concerns, let me know. If you want to share some of your grief journey, I am all ears because It has been quite the couple weeks that I know that I'm just at the front end of this journey and I'm not gonna shy away from it. And it's definitely given me some new perspective as a geriatric clinician. Even when I thought I kind of had done my research and I've been in a lot of experiences talking about grief, it is so different when you're experiencing it yourself. All right, hope you all have a wonderful week. Signing off now, bye.

OUTRO
Hey, thanks for tuning in to the PT on Ice daily show. If you enjoyed this content, head on over to iTunes and leave us a review, and be sure to check us out on Facebook and Instagram at the Institute of Clinical Excellence. If you’re interested in getting plugged into more ice content on a weekly basis while earning CUs from home, check out our virtual ice online mentorship program at ptonice.com. While you’re there, sign up for our Hump Day Hustling newsletter for a free email every Wednesday morning with our top five research articles and social media posts that we think are worth reading. Head over to ptonice.com and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.

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