By Adria Rheault
Do you remember the days when your mom and dad would work late so they could afford to put a meal on the table? What about all the times you needed a ride somewhere? A lot of us forget all the things our parents used to do for us when we were growing up. The things I have witnessed working in the retirement home is absolutely heartbreaking. The sadness I hear from my tenants about not getting calls from their children, or their children being too busy to stop by or simply take them out for a meal is awful and too frequent. Family is so important to the elderly; they need the touch and warmth of another, just as we do.
The elderly often need more time. Their reaction time has slowed down and it takes longer for them to get out what they want to say. They then get frustrated if you end up not listening and saying “what?” because they now have to go through the same process over again, which is exhausting. Maybe we see a man in the supermarket and he is clearly getting agitated at something, and we quickly walk past thinking, “Oh, it is just a crabby old man.” Well maybe he is starting to get dementia and forgot what he went there for; or maybe an item he needs is too heavy or high, and he is struggling with the fact that he can no longer do something on his own. Most of the time if someone is crying, yelling, or really upset, it is because they need help and they do not know how to ask for it. The brain power of someone who has dementia has slowly decreased and they now have the mind of a two-year-old or maybe even younger. When we see a baby cry, we try to figure out what they need. Instead, it may be an aged man or woman, but they need the same things and don’t know how to get them.
I assisted a lady once who had fallen the night prior and was in agonizing pain the next day, to the point of not being able to stand straight when walking. I called her daughter to let her know that her mom wanted to go to the doctor, and the daughter seemed like it was the most inconvenient thing for her. My tenant ended up having cracked ribs and was in the hospital for over a week. A lot of my tenants do not want to call their family because they feel like they are a bother. Most of the time we don't realize how impatient we are when talking to someone and how much our actions affect our loved ones. We may have a lot going on in our life, but they did too when they raised us. We wouldn't want to call someone for help if we thought we were a bother to them.
Maybe a parent needs more assistance and may need to be moved, but since they gave their child power of attorney permitting them to handle their financial matters, they end up staying at the same place struggling because it would be “too expensive or would take too much time to figure out medical assistance.” Which is a poor excuse because in most cases it is our parents' money that we are not willing to spend. I had a tenant who would fare better if her room were closer to the dining room, because it would be less of a distance to walk and she could come to activities more often. Her children think she walks just fine, and they will not take the time to help her move rooms. My fear is that she will decline faster than she would if she were more active. There are many meals that she doesn’t come to because of the long walk and how exhausted she is by the time she gets to the dining room.
I am in no way saying people should not have their own life because, we all get busy, but we need to stop and remember the sacrifices they made for us. We could all do more for the elderly in general. Next time you see someone struggling to carry their grocery bags, offer to help them. I know human compassion is still out there. Sometimes life gets crazy and we get so wrapped up in ourselves. We, as the younger generation, need to get better at remembering the important things in life, like relationships and compassion. We need to set better examples for the generations to come. What it really comes down to is this: how do you want to be treated when you are older?
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