What is the problem with taking care of old people?
The problem is this: It is just too hard and too much of an inconvenience for those of us seniors who are complaining.
With all the many devices and jobs and clean ups that are required from us when taking care of old people, emotional care is something we need to remember most.
And, due to the constant stress of our work, we often forget this.
We did a survey of 82 old people who are currently being taken care of by their children. And, we are seniors ourselves.
Here’s what we found:
80 (97.6%) out of the 82 old men and women we surveyed said the most important thing to them was that their children cared enough about them to take care of them now that they couldn’t take care of themselves. That’s 95%!
That sounds pretty normal. Right?
But, guess what?
68 of these advanced seniors said they wished their children smiled more. 83%.
Mom and Dad said they don’t care so much if they have a bit of spilled food on their clothes. Or, if lunch is a bit late. Or, not hot enough. Or, the TV was too small.
They didn’t really care too much if the meal is not their favorite. Or, if they can’t really hear the TV well enough.
You already know, or, know how to find out all the “things” you need to do to be taking care of old people. The equipment you need, etc… And, there are groups that have a lot of experience that can help us seniors with this.
It’s sometimes a lot. And, care giving is time consuming, for sure. Energy draining. Especially when we caregivers are seniors ourselves already. Frustrating. Emotionally expensive. Dollar expensive. Just plain difficult sometimes! Maybe even all the time.
We’re not going to be talking about all the work we have to do. All the things we have to buy.
You do those. And, they’re not always very easy.
We’re going to be talking about taking care of old people with the one thing they cherish the most. Your time. Your smile. Your gentle touch. Your patience. (Patience can be the very hardest one… as you know)
Of course you care. A lot. Otherwise you wouldn’t be using most of your daily energy attending to their needs. Putting up with them almost never being satisfied with anything. Right?
That’s a really hard one for most all of us. Especially when we are devoting almost all of our daily energy to them. And, being there even when we are almost too exhausted to breathe ourselves. Am I right?
It’s a hard job. Maybe the hardest one we will ever have as seniors ourselves.
You are an angel. Did you know that? They may not say it too often. Or ever. But, they know it. And, when they are warm and comfortable, when they sleep soundly and comfortably, it is because of YOU.
They usually don’t even know how much it takes out of you.
Did you know, in the survey, the one thing they said they want, more than anything else in the world, is your smile?
Number two was your time.
Just sitting with them. Chatting. Reading. Listening to them. Even though they may repeat the same thing 30 times and not even realize it.
It’s hard taking care of old people. It can be very very hard. Day after day. As seniors, our life should be a little easier now. Not more difficult. Right?
Yes, we complain.
Yes, it’s not easy. It can be very hard. VERY hard. Damn hard sometime! Right?
Really. Stop whining.
Stop the self pity.
Were you very difficult and a real pain in the ass when you were a baby? When you needed feeding every 3 hours in the middle of the night? Diaper changing? Constant supervision? Screaming endlessly? Making these same people worry all night when you were sick and had a fever? When they forever were losing sleep because of YOU? etc… etc… etc…
When their eyes had great shadows under them from all the hours of missed sleep. Of worry. Of constant care, devotion, and love. Did you ever say “Thank You!”. Even once? Or, did we just demand more?
Of course we did. We were babies.
Now is your turn. Since you are choosing to take it. This is your “Thank You” to them.
Oh yeah. They were supposed to do that. Right? They asked for it when they had us… Right? Rubbish!
We often feel our lives are in tatters or lost because we are taking care of old people instead of enjoying what free time we seniors are now supposed to have.
They are stealing our joy. We no longer have time or the energy for the things we want to do for ourselves because of our old people.
Why can’t our old people be like the "normal ones" who just grow old, self sufficient, are fun, tell us great stories, cook things for us, and then one day go to sleep and die without fuss?
Our old people are a real labor.
Still, our old people, who gave up so much for us, who can’t even remember our name, or, who we are, are the ones who loved us without limit so many years ago.
The ones who now get scared when they see us. Because we are some stranger walking into their home. Their room. Their private space. Are we there to hurt them? To steal from them? What do we want???
And, we complain. We whine. We need support. We need help. Poor us…..
Shame on us!
These are the people who used to be young vibrant people. Like us! People whose lives we put in tatters and disarray so many years ago. Who we exhausted. Who we put through hell. Who we kept up all night. Who took care of us and cleaned up our poops and pee. Six times a day.
These are the people who, no matter how hard it was, never sent us away to a “home” for the young.
These old people are the people who only felt Blessed by the burden we imposed on them. I was a horrible child sometimes….
But, we are burdened. We feel cursed…..
“Oh. yeah. But, that was their job. Right? Their choice….”
They took care of us. No matter how hard. And then, bought us a new bicycle. A new doll. A new baseball glove… Instead of the new dress or suit they may have needed…
Taking care of old people is our gift. Not our curse. Even as we come into our own senior years.
Yes, a gift to us.
Taking care of old people is part of the natural cycle of life. In other more “primitive” societies, old people always live with the rest of the family.
We are often too self absorbed to realize this.
Old people, in earlier cultures, are still cherished for their gifts. They are still revered. And, treated as great treasures. No matter how little of them remains.
Oh yes, our sacred lives as seniors and all our fun and diversions have been lost to a chore that is now sometimes almost unbearable….
So, too often, if we have the money, we send them to “a home”.
Shame on us!
Shame on us.
Cherish each dreadful moment of changing their diapers. Of feeding them applesauce that runs down their face while you are missing your cocktail hour or favorite book. Your time with your friends. Or, your new TV series..… Your “special time”. Gone now.
Oh, poor you…..
If you didn’t already realize, this time in our lives is one of the most precious gifts we will be given. Difficult as it can be in our own senior years. This time of ours is probably also the most special gift we will ever give anyone. And, it’s a gift that may very well never be repaid. Our Joy must be in the giving.
The time to comfort the ones who gave you this life. The ones who gave up their own personal fun so that YOU could have fun.
So that YOU could play Baseball. So that YOU could go to ballet lessons. So that YOU could learn to play the piano. So that YOU could always be fed, be safe and warm at night. So that YOU could go outside and play with your friends after school each day. So that the very worst thing in your life was not being one of “the in crowd”. Or, losing your favorite baseball card.
These “burdens” we take care of all day long are the same wonderful people who read us stories so that we could fall asleep. The ones who rubbed our tummies when they hurt, instead of smoking a cigarette and having a glass of wine.
And, now we get to repay that debt. To those who loved us so much. To those who may not even recognize us now most of the time. Who repeat things so many times that we sometimes think we will lose our own minds.
Taking care of these old people is a gift to us. One that we rarely recognize right now.
But, for all the times these old, useless, annoying, energy draining, finance draining, people take now, it is our chance to pay back. For the precious gifts they once gave us, that we simply accepted as our due.
Mommy! I need….
Daddy, can I have a….?
The endless hours Dad worked mercilessly, taking unnecessary crap and humiliation from his boss, so that we could be warm, well fed, and ride a shiny new bicycle on our eighth or tenth birthday. The nights Mom didn't sleep because we were sick and had a fever.
We need to think about all of this before we complain again.
Yes. Our job can be purgatory sometimes. It will pass.
Taking care of old people is a challenge. For sure. No doubt. And, even harder for those of us who are seniors now ourselves.
Taking care of old people can drive us crazy at times. Taking care of old seniors who were once our idols. Old people who are now reduced to a drooling incoherent frustrating piece of flesh. Who yell at us. Verbally abuse us sometimes. Who forget who we even are.
We need to always remember: This drooling incoherent demanding frustrating ungrateful piece of flesh and bones still has feelings. Emotions. Important emotions. Their emotions may be the last thing they actually have left. They are as scared as we are weary.
A smile. Holding their fragile bony hand and listening patiently to the same story for the fifteenth time in the last fifteen minutes. That’s all they really want right now. That is what fills their hearts now.
And, these can be the hardest things to give right now. We too often forget this, suffering from exhaustion, as we do our 1,001 caregiver tasks each day.
Isn’t that true?
These old people who can not even go to the bathroom by themselves. These old people need our gentleness and our smiles now more than they ever needed anything before.
And, when we see that occasional smile on their face, because we have touched their heart, we know it is all worth it.
Taking care of old people requires attention. Probably more than any child ever will. And, no, seniors and old people don’t grow smarter and more fun each day. Each day is harder and more exhausting than the one before.
They grow older. More worn out. Less who they used to be. More demanding. Less and less pleasurable each day. After a while, people who may no longer even know who you are.
But, inside that old decaying, rotting body is the person who loved you more than their own life. And, who probably still does.
The person you revered more than anyone else in the whole world. It's very hard watching that person become so old. Isn't it?
The person that gave you the chance to experience this miraculous thing we so often take for granted. This life here on Earth.
No, they won’t be like this forever. Taking care of old people now can seem like it will kill YOU before they die.
Maybe it will. But, probably not.
And, even though you may NEVER hear a single “Thank You Dear” from them when they get near the end, you are the one who gave them a little bit of peace. Some dignity when they had none. Some comfort in their misery and helplessness at the end of their life.
YOU are their angel now. It is a sacred responsibility and gift. It's not easy for anyone. Especially when we are seniors ourselves. But, it is infinitely spititually rewarding.
Cleaning up their mess. Often. Every day. Talking to them when they don’t recognize you anymore. When they scold you. Shout at you. When they are no longer any fun at all. None at all.
Watching them spit out their food (Yet another chore to clean up). Hearing them shout at you and curse you when you are trying your very best to make them comfortable.
Being berated and screamed at…. just plain abused.
These are your gifts now.
They don’t seem like “gifts” do they? Not at all.
Yes, they are gifts to you.
Because each time you bear them, each time you return for more, YOU are giving them that last bit of comfort and validity in their loves that no one else will.
That is a love from you that will probably never be repaid. And, that love from YOU is greater than anything else they could ever have in this world right now. That is your gift to them. For all they gave to you.
The chance to repay their love to you is “the gift”. Cherish it. You’ll know this so much more when they decide to pass onward.
And, even though you may never hear it from them, they sleep peacefully each night because of you.
"And, when the day comes that they die,
you will see a peacefulness and happiness on their face.
That peace and happiness
was because of your love and care."
Thank You. Taking care of old people is hard. Merciless sometimes. YOU are a hero. YOU are one of God’s Angels. Yes, YOU. Didn’t know that. Did you? ~ Thank you.