The subject of “care” was discussed here more then once in earlier columns. Like education, politics, gun control and all the others, a solution cannot, will not, be found in these few words. As usual, my goal is to encourage you to do something to improve the situation. Only you can make the difference.
As we move along this highway of life on a rocky road to old age, be aware of those supporters laboring silently, smiling a lot, and always tired. Theirs is an ongoing effort to do the right thing for those in need. These are the caregivers, male or female, that are concerned with the welfare of others.
Hopefully, there will be many, family or friends, who invariably and inevitably, manage to step forward and deliver care, love, affection, and genuine concern for the welfare of others. There are caregivers (outside the family circle) that get paid for this care and do a superb job of caring. Oft times, willing friends and family simply lack the necessary skills to deliver adequate care in a timely fashion. If you know one of these wingless angels, take time and pay them a visit. Openly recognize their efforts. Share a cup of coffee and acknowledge their many but frequently overlooked contributions. Let me explain by example. Names and other details have been altered to protect personal privacy.
In my stay at retirement facilities, I have observed husbands and wives extending their love through feeding, conversation, or just sitting quietly holding hands. As circumstances allow, I take a few moments and tell the caregiver I am impressed. My statements may not mean much but the recognition of caring effort brings a happy smile.
Many readers know one or more families where a spouse or relartive is suffering from ravages of ill health, broken bones, too many increasing years, cancer in any virulent form, and the dreaded Alzheimer’s. Rather than concentrating and focusing on the ailing individual, take a long and studied look at the caretakers.
Seemingly, we have the idea, wrong though it may be, that women are the nurturers, semi-professional home nurses, and all-inclusive cook, laundress, shopper, maid, housekeeper, and general caretaker for the whole house. This is probably correct until misfortune strikes and she becomes a taker of care.
It is even worse for the males. Big and strong, they try to continue and the need for care from others is or has been limited. Ailments may be ignored; that is until he becomes the taker/recipient of tender loving care. Take it from me; giving kind care to one of these can range from difficult to impossible. Let us take a close look at all who need care. Caretakers were once human just like you or me. Those faltering must also contend with the partial, hopefully temporary, surrender of nearly all controlling elements of their lives.
This is only a partial list of elements that perhaps impact all surrounding. Singly or collectively, this can be totally devastating. For example, personal mobility is perhaps the one item that affects nearly all others. Maybe you cannot drive any more thereby eliminating the browsing pleasures of a trip to Kroger’s or Wal-Mart. Teaching a child how to swing a bat can only be done outdoors with a lot of “show and tell.” Frantic searches for a lost or misplaced cell-phone, in two or three rooms becomes totally impossible. More often than or not, it is not out of the question for a taker to need help dressing/undressing, assistance in bathing, and other indignities.
The one item not included or listed in this litany of roadblocks and outside obstacles is the more or less absolute loss of control. The first thing that goes is scheduling and timing. Fixed schedules means meals three times a day are the rule. In addition, medicines by the handful and showers or baths must include the performance of these with similar tasks and chores for the entire facility. So many of us are accustomed to their fixed but flexible schedule but this is not a concern any longer. Ease the discomfort by recognizing all residents at this entire facility are enduring this just as you are.
These considerations have been observed by me and indeed I am a participant, having participated in this drama on all sides. There is no one cookbook solution equally applicable in all situations. One common command: KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR. Some bad events may have humorous pieces floating around looking for a smile, laugh, crinkled nose, or eyes blinking with remembered pleasures. Keep smiling. Change the subject. And look ahead down the road a bit.
You can anticipate your role in this care environment. You and your actions in this drama can become a warm memory for all.
Only you can make a difference. Make it happen.
Grady Easley is a Huntsville resident and weekly columnist for The Item.