Trevor here from Mobility Ready with a quick introduction.
Recently, I reached out to my sister, Evelyn, about writing a guest post for our blog. She had some first-hand experience as a caregiver for a week and wanted to tell her story. I think this is an important story to tell because we often underestimate the needs of the elderly and caregivers aren't given enough credit for their efforts. I hope you enjoy this story and if you have any comments or questions please leave them in the comments section below.
"Respect for the Aged" a short story by Evelyn Kidd
I took care of a woman in her 80’s for one week and I still remember it as one of the most difficult weeks of my life. Her body was weakened due to a debilitating stroke.
I found an ad on Craigslist and discovered the opportunity in college. Her daughter paid me well to watch and tend to her every need ranging from bathroom needs, feeding to facilitating anything she could dream up.
The hardest part was moving her from her wheelchair to the toilet. That was just the most physically exhausting part. The rest of the days were spent making her specifically requested weak tea, discussing her dreams to one day go back to Chicago, and learning more about her background as a nurse.
The number of elderly Americans is expected to double by 2050. It takes time, patience, and understanding to tend to and listen to the needs of the elderly, and I think we could all use a lesson in how to listen. Being heard and respected was sometimes the only thing she desired most. It also helps that she could do many things independently, and move with the use of her mobility device.
Admittedly, I didn’t last very long on the job. The daughter explained the stroke had affected her brain, and that she was more short-tempered as a result, which wore me down and I didn’t have the skills in place to understand.
Although I understood I was out-of-my-league, it was an experience that left a renewed respect and appreciation for the daily struggles of the elderly, and how we could improve as Americans. How a society treats their most marginalized and suffering citizens reveals their true nature to the rest of the world.
In Japan, they have “Respect for the Aged Day,” while in America we fear and admonish others about getting old. It is often mentioned in casual conversation as a negative: “My (insert physical trait or skill) is getting worse, I must be getting old,” when in fact we have so much to look forward to because we get to learn about ourselves and the world more with each passing day.
I considered how much we all need to show more respect for the elders in our communities. We have more in common with seniors then we realize. We want someone to listen to us and honor us, and the tools we need to get around without overly relying on others, and getting a change of scenery every once and awhile to help renew our spirits.
Staying mobile was an important part of her daily life, and with mobility, she was able to maintain a semblance of independence. Her home included a large ramp, and she could easily wheel herself around the home. There were times when she didn’t need me for anything but a warm body to chat with about the past, and those are the moments that made the rest of each day more bearable.
I really hope her daughter took her to the park when she got home from work and appreciated every moment they had together. It’s not always realistic to take care of our elders, but if I were her daughter, I would like to think I would be able to help fulfill her wildest dreams by taking her out for her favorite deep-dish Chicago pizza or explore a local park and just listen to her talk about the past.
If you want to read more of Evelyn's work you can visit her profile on LinkedIn.