i had a patient once...many years ago (karen b. will remember him) his name was harry and he was in his 90's and in both WW1 and 2 and every moment of his life was deeply engraved in the wrinkles and valleys of his face.
i used to just look at him and think he was so breathtakingly beautiful....this ancient old man with his craggy face.
we do not value our seniors...not just our animal seniors but our human elders too. we don't make them feel proud and precious because they are still alive.
i look at it this way....anyone who can with a good heart survive thru birth to extreme old age in their lifetime...has to be a hero.
getting really old is so very hard...so many losses..friends, family, physical and mental function and comfort....independence and self worth. every thing just becomes so much more difficult. and with these losses, the biggest loss of all is when they start losing who they were.
treat our elderly gently...we don't have to point out or get them to agree that they are forgetting to take their pills frequently. we don't have to tell them that they have not had a bath in many long weeks and they are forgetting to change their clothing too. we can just simply and kindly help them to keep doing these things.
we can avoid reminding them that we work full time and have families to care for and cannot be available for their every beck and call. and if we try really hard...we can take the burden that they have become in our lives and help them to feel that they are a true gift. it is not their fault we feel frustrated at their failings, it is not their fault that they need more help from us today...we don't have to make them feel like they are useless or a problem or a frustrating worry because they are in fact...none of these things. and we can help them now, kindly and respectfully and gratefully in their hours of need.
they are our fathers and mothers who cared for us for many years, they are the generation whose past has enabled our present and future. all of them have spent the better part of a century raising their families, caring for grandchildren, building our family traditions, fighting our wars for freedom, working hard, going hungry thru the depression years...they paid the taxes that sent us to the moon and put the first satellites up in the air so today we could have cell phones.
the ancient survivor ones are a precious gift to all of us....they gave so that we could receive.
we have to honor them, we have to treat them gently and with dignity...we have to pay them back for so much of everything.
i hear the frustation in voices when they speak to the very elderly...i hear it in the voices of families..i hear it from doctors and nurses...we don't have time to let them process things now so we rapid fire questions and won't listen to their answers with their sometimes seemingly, never ending stories. and we contradict them constantly and tell them they are wrong in whatever it is that they are trying to say or remember.
we want them to be quick...we want them to understand, we want them to admit and agree....easily.
but things no longer come quickly or easily when you are really old..things are forgotten, we develop black holes that sucked up our short term memories. our vision and hearing get foggy. we can see the past so clearly but today is lost. our backs and knees can't bend very well and it is an almost impossible struggle to put on clean socks...if you even have any that are not full of holes. shopping and banking becomes a frightening thing...we suffer from shortness of breath, the traffic lights at the crossings change so very fast and we might forget where we live when we try to make our way back home again.
and everywhere around you, is a world that you don't know anymore and you see in the mirror of others faces and voices, their frustrations at the losses you have had. it frightens you that somehow you have changed from an asset to a burden overnight.
and everyone that you knew and trusted who understood who you once were... have already gone ahead of you and died.
and now you are no one...just a useless old person...whoever you once were doesn't count anymore....now you are old and problem to be solved.
why do we make them feel like that?
it has been a tough week at work.