When I started working with the elderly, I knew nothing.
I didn’t know much about older people. I am the youngest grandchild on both sides. With multiple siblings in both my parent’s families, there were many grandchildren, and by the time I came along, the grandparents were elderly and coping with their own issues. I had the best relationship with my Dad’s mother, but she lived out of town, and we didn’t see her much.
My one qualification was that my mother had Alzheimer’s, and I was starting in an Alzheimer’s unit. But as I said in previous posts, I was minimally helpful to my mother. I had two degrees, but no education in gerontology. It was pretty amazing that they hired me. It wouldn’t happen today.
Something else I didn’t know was how these incredible people would add to my life. Caregiving isn’t only about giving. I have learned and grown and been touched and blessed. My life would be skim milk without their influence.
Let me tell you about some of them. The names have been changed.
George was a member of a prestigious, well-known choir. He loved boats, and built his own at one time. He had Alzheimer’s and an anxiety disorder.
One of our Christmas traditions is for staff to carol throughout the house. By the time this happened, George had been non-verbal for months. As the staff walked by his room, he was standing in the doorway. Something in his body language indicated to me that he wanted to join us, and he linked arms with me in answer to my invitation. As we moved to another unit, I frowned with confusion. Where was that rich baritone coming from? It was George. He was singing “Joy to the World.” Every word. I was convinced the angels were singing, too.
I met Myrtle when she was still living independently in an apartment. I popped into the store in our facility to purchase some forgotten item for the hot cross buns I was making with residents, and Myrtle was shopping as well. We had a conversation about hot cross bun recipes, and became fast friends. A few months later, she had a stroke, and after time in hospital and rehab, she moved into the care sections. She fought courageously to walk again, but was never able to do so independently, and eventually used her wheelchair exclusively. Although proud and private, she made the adjustments necessary to be gracious about receiving care every day. She had strong opinions about many subjects, and voiced them with clarity. When she smiled, the world lit up, and when she laughed, she snorted. I miss her every day.
Frances makes me laugh. I was wearing lacy tights, and because she is blind, she ran her hand up and down my leg to “see” them. “Oh, my! You should lift your dress more, so those can be seen better.”
“I think I should leave something to the imagination, don’t you?”
“You won’t get far doing that…” Frances is the best.
I am a caregiver, because every day, they add to my life.
If you are a caregiver, how has your loved one touched your life since you started in that role?