Do you ever dream of having someone look after you?
After a particularly long and demanding day, I think about someone making me a cup of tea and giving me a foot rub. Maybe a neck rub, too. There’s usually a beach involved, with rhythmic, lapping waves, warm sun and a book in my hand. If I’m hungry, someone brings me delicious food to munch, and if I need a nap, I can take one without judgement.
Doesn’t that sound heavenly? The problem is, the novelty would wear off for me after a day. It’s great to relax, and a treat to be served, but if every day was like that, I’d get bored.
Is it any wonder our elders complain of boredom?
“An elder centred community creates opportunity to give as well as receive care. This is the antidote to helplessness.” 1
It makes sense. If everything is done for you, even the things you can do for yourself, then you stop trying to be independent. If you believe you have nothing to give, what is the purpose for your life?
But realistically, what can frail elderly people give?
· Humour and laughter
· Share their stories
The list goes on.
I remember a time in my life when I was spiritually worn out. We’d just been through a church split, and we needed to be cared for. We went to a new church and attended a Sunday school class taught by a retired missionary, well into her 70s. The insights, wisdom and humour of that lady brought us back to spiritual health.
Then there was Pauline. Her steps faltered as she made her way down the hall. Dementia fogged her brain and her hearing was poor, but whenever she saw a staff member, she said, “You girls are so good to us old folks. It’s just like home here.” No matter how many times she said it, the sincerity in her voice warmed my heart.
Florence suffered from an anxiety disorder, and her large frame often shook as she tried to understand her world through the fog of dementia. I sat beside her as she lay on her bed and watched in satisfaction as her tense body relaxed. I held her hand and we talked, and for the moment, the demons she battled receded. "I feel safe with you," she said. Although this happened many years ago, it still warms my heart to remember it.
Sometimes the issue is the mindset of those who give care. If care partners aren’t open to receiving, it won’t happen.
Open your heart and your mind to the elders around you. Listen, ask questions and look for opportunities to receive from them. You will be richer.
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