Introduction #3681

Building a Relationship

10 min - Introduction


In this series, Debora Kolwey shares the special relationship she has with her client, Helene, who she has been teaching for over 16 years. Originally, Helene was meant to be in her videos but wasn't able to come. In addition to the exercises she gives to her 85-year-old client, she also shares how their relationship has grown and changed over time. As a Pilates teacher, you can keep someone going just by being there for them without judgment.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Feb 04, 2019
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Several months ago, I had an idea that I would bring my friend, Helene Willis to come with me to please any time and we were going to film her. We were gonna film me teaching her, um, the routine that she does now and compare it with the kind of work we've been doing together over the last 16 years. Helene is 85 years old. When she came to me. She was 69. Um, had a variety of issues. Her intake form was full. Um, everything from the fact that she'd had the middle lobe of her right lung removed. She had history of hypertension, difficulty getting her electrolytes and her sodium's sodium levels balanced. She'd had several falls that had, um, ended up in several surgeries, um, bad knees, broken wrist, not to mention the fact that she was a woman, very slight, four, 11 at most with a really, really intense scoliosis.

So you think, oh my goodness. Um, delightful. Absolutely delightful. We, we became very close friends, which is something else that is not usual for me. I've mostly worked over the years to keep a bit of a boundary between my professional and personal life. But Helene, she really got under my skin. She has a huge extended family at this point. She's a great grandmother several times over. Um, so when I met Helene, my daughter was seven, and really getting into reading and writing at school, showing an aptitude for being quite a good writer. Helene is a, a literacy specialist. She, she was a school teacher for many years.

She was retired, but consulting. When I first met her, she created a, um, a master's program at a local university where I live in the Denver area. Um, she got the pace setter award. One years is an amazing person. We're talking about. Um, she's family now. Her family. Um, I know them. A year and a half ago, one of Helene sons died. Um, he'd had a long bout with, uh, an unusual cancer. He is my age. And, uh, so last Christmas was the first Christmas they had without him. And then in January she contracted quite a severe virus. Um, I saw her on January 3rd for a Palati session and then looking back at my notes, I didn't see her again until April, and that, that, that illness is really not knocked her back. She's never quite recovered, you could say physically, emotionally, psychologically. Um, I wanted to bring Helene here this year. I wanted to give her that boost. I thought she would love it here. She loved the, the ocean and we were pretty set to do it.

Kristy and Amy and I had had it all planned out, but, uh, recently she got sick again and it just, it became clear that this isn't going to work out. Uh, instead of canning the plan, we decided that I would teach Jia who's obviously quite a bit younger and, um, we decided I would teach Jia and I would try and show some of what I do with Helene. What I want to say is that you're not looking at just exercises for elderly people. Um, what you're looking at is 16 years of developing a relationship with somebody. Um, watching that person grow, change their whole life, get up on, um, up ended. And this is a woman who was always fantastically easy and wonderful to teach. I often said to her, while you come to me with so much natural awareness and an ability to take the images in and just feel into what I'm saying, you've, she was just so, so easy to teach. And lately she said to me, no, she said, it wasn't that I came to you with all this awareness.

She said it was that we worked together for so long and developed this trust that the consistency over time and the, the repeat, the repetition and having these routines that we developed together based on all of her special needs developed in her and awareness. And so what you're seeing is obviously Jia can do the exercises beautifully. And what you're not seeing is my dear Helene, who is at this point in a lot of pain much of the time and quite bent over. Um, and so our work together has really focused in the last couple of years anyway on, on getting her up, helping her stand, helping relieve the pain that she feels in her back, getting her up out of her knees, making sure her feet and ankles are working well, just trying to keep her as organized as possible in this very small body that's had a lot of illness and a lot of surgery and a lot of sadness, um, to keep going. And she does keep going and she's an amazing person and she does many things at homes. The things that you saw Jia doing on the end of the Cadillac, Helene has a version of that she does on her shower doors, things like that.

So where you might've seen gea doing things relatively simply and obviously that's not the case with Helene. Helene doesn't just let go of her hip flexors. Helene doesn't press back through her arms without pushing into her back. But that's our work together. And we have developed the series together. Um, some days she does less, some days she does more. The, uh, the thing that I want to also tell you is how much she brings to the table. So one of the other things I've learned about working with people that are older and particularly women, I would say that the majority of my private clientele right now are over, over 70, even over 75. And um, you don't just tell that person what to do, you know, it's like you bring them in, they tell you what they need, they tell you what it's like for them and you develop a, it's a friendship. It's a relationship. Um, I went to visit Helene just the other day before I came here and she had had some injections in her spine. They were hoping to take some of that pain away.

And she said to the doctors, she went back after and she said, you know, it hasn't really helped all that much and in the midst of everything. So the doctor says something to the effect of, well, you know, I wasn't that surprised with your condition. It's only gonna get worse than you should have seen the look on Helene's face. She was tired. She was shaky. She looked at me and she said, I don't accept negative prognosis. And uh, and that's who she is. Everything she's been through. Um, so I just wanted to share, I wanted to share a little bit about her. I wanted to share what's possible over time. We don't quit. We keep going.

We do what we do. Um, like I said, some days we do more, some days we do less, but the relationship has been key. What she has shared with me is that she's been able to keep going and do what she does because she trusts me because I accept her. I always, like I said, I always thought she was super easy to teach. She turned around and she said, no, it's what we do together. It's the fact that you accept me for who I am.

You don't push me to do something that I can't do. And you give me that, the confidence and the positivity that I'm not going to fall into this scoliosis. I'm not gonna, I'm not going to give up. So I guess that's really what I want to say. I wish she was here. Um, if when you watch these videos with Jia, if you want to contact me and ask me questions about kind of how we got to do what we do, I'm more than happy to share. There's more. We just didn't have time for it today. It's not like I made anything up, particularly like I thought, Oh, you know, this is what you do with older people. It's, it's just how we've developed over time. When she first came to me, she did fill out reformer. She still does some chair, you know, it just depends. And, uh, I just, I want you to know that it all matters who you are matters and, and, um, you can really keep somebody going.

It may not look like what you think, but you, you keep them going and you give them that, that energy and a good things come.


1 person likes this.
Debora, your experience with Helene and the way you shared it, really touched my heart. Thank you!
1 person likes this.
I don’t even have the words to express how much this touched me. We should all be lucky enough to have you as our teacher. Thank you.
Thank you, Debora - you are, as always, amazing.
Debora Kolwey
Hi everyone! Coincidently, FB just showed me one of those "memory" photos . It's a picture of me teaching Helene 7 years ago. She fell last week but seems to be essentially alright. She couldn't get to her lesson this week so I am going to her house to show her our film. Thanks for your kind comments. hope the photo comes through xoxo
This was lovely Debora. This is one of the aspects of our profession I find most fulfilling.
You have inspired me so, thanks for sharing your compassion/passion of teaching!
Debora Thank you so much for sharing your story and experience with Helena. It is so inspiring.
Debora Thank you so much for sharing your story and experience with Helena. It is so inspiring.
Debora Kolwey
I am so glad. I showed Helene the clip and she really enjoyed it, too
Debra thank you for sharing your relationship with Helena. Like you I teach older clients (70 &80's mostly) and although they are genuinely happy with the work we do, their gift to me is so much more. I have thoroughly enjoyed your session on hip/foot. Looking forward to more of your sessions. Thank you!!!
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