In my early years as a CHHA, I had a patient who kept trying to push me away. Rose wouldn’t let me help her bathe, brush her hair or walk across the room, although she was clearly struggling to do these things. She was rude to me, or ignored me altogether, and she made my first few weeks working for her very hard. The worst part is that I was a live-in, so I had almost no break from her relentless war against me.

One day, Rose was so fractious that by the end of the day, I found myself crying in my room. I was exhausted, frustrated and upset. I called my supervisor and she told me something I have never forgotten: “Be her friend first. Then she’ll let you help her.”

So I watched her struggle to do things on her own and I didn’t push her to let me help. Instead, I opened the lines of communication by talking about unimportant things. We watched a TV show together and I talked about the characters and the plot. We went outside to sit on the porch and I made up stories about the people who walked by. And I asked her about her life and let her tell me story after story about her experiences.

Of course, I cleaned and cooked and made sure Rose didn’t fall or hurt herself, but I was respectful of her privacy and her space. One day, in the middle of one of our TV shows, she asked if I could get her a cup of water. And little by little, she started asking for help. And one day, I noticed that she wasn’t asking anymore – she was just expecting me to be there and do what needed to be done. She waited for me to help her up instead of trying to get up on her own and she waited calmly while I cut up her food before dinner.

I learned an important lesson from that client. It’s not easy letting someone into your life, especially when it means admitting you can’t do everything by yourself anymore. As a CHHA, I need to build trust with a patient before I can help them. I need to open the lines of communication and be their friend, so that asking me for help becomes natural.

Now when I think of Rose I don’t think of that difficult patient. I think of a wonderful, warm woman who lived life to the fullest and was a true friend to me.