The Meaning of T L C


by Michael Thomas, RN

We all have times in our lives where we need a little more TLC…better known as Tender Loving Care.

During these times we often feel a little more defeated than we normally do.  It may be due to family problems, financial difficulties, car trouble, illness, or many other issues that we face on a given day.

For the elderly, it is often a result from loss. This past week I went to assess a potential new member at his home. As I walked up the stairs to his house I could not help but notice how unkempt the area was with overgrown grass, hedges and potted plants that have been long in need of some TLC.  While we sat in his living room I could not help but see the pictures of him as a young adult, his wife and his children.  As he showed us through his home I saw boxes stacked in each room where he had been packing up in preparation for his move.  With great pride he showed his antique furniture from Russia.  Later while he reapplied his oxygen to catch his breath, I glanced over at the kitchen where boxes were stacked around and could not help but feel the life that this home had once entertained.

Suddenly my heart felt heavy as I thought of how hard this must all be for this man.  For me this visit started off as just another task I had to complete this day.  It was just an assessment to see if someone would qualify to live in Assisted Living.  Suddenly…this was much more.  I was overwhelmed with the heaviness of the realization of how much loss members have experienced by the time they move into our beautiful, activity-filled community.

For this man, who just months before had lost his wife of 50 + years, now sat in his home alone.  A home where the kitchen was once the center of home-cooked meals, family reunions, Thanksgiving turkeys, birthday parties and Christmas mornings with a warm fire burning in the fireplace.  A home where children once ran underfoot and anxiously awaited opening Christmas presents.  A home where he would come after a hard day’s work and be greeted by his wife with a smile, or maybe even a “What took so long?!”…but nevertheless…home.  A home where he cheered his children off to college while he held back the tears.  A home where hugs, kisses, arguments, drama, the good, the bad, hope and love have been replaced with care givers, oxygen tanks, boxes, loneliness, debility, falls, giving cherished things away, and where the ghosts of past memories now walk the hallways.

I was humbled by the realization of the emotional, material, and physical loss that our members must go through before coming to us.  I also thought how they often mourn the loss in silence while being told how nice the place they are going to is.  Then they arrive and are expected to be pleasant, smile, not call too much, take their medications when given, eat when food is presented and not complain if the vegetables are not cooked enough, go to therapy when it is time, take showers when scheduled, and readjust…possibly one last time…to a new environment…all while saying goodbye to much of their past life.  What tremendous loss and lack of control they must feel.  How difficult this must be for them to transition into our community with dignity, elegance, grace, and a smile.

Change is never easy for us yet we often expect community members to manage change without missing a beat.

I challenge each of you to think about a time when you a suffered loss:  a divorce, loss of a home, loss of a parent, loss of a job, a child, anything.  How did you recover?  How did you survive?  What gave you strength?

Take time in your day to day routine to provide T-L-C with those we serve and care for.  Don’t become impatient with a request but instead be understanding, patient and kind.  Show you care even when time does not permit.  It is during stressful and difficult times that our true character shines through.  Remember to take Time…Listen…and to show Compassion in all you do.  T L C.

Make it your practice!


Michael Thomas is the Associate Director of Nursing at Cascades Verdae, a CCRC in Greenville, South Carolina.

Image provided by Suat Eman.


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