Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Care Partner Wednesday--What is an Elder?

"An elder is someone who, by virtue of life experience, is here to teach us how to live."
          --The Eden Alternative definition of an elder

When I was a little girl, there was a lady in the church who "adopted" me. I was shy and socially backward, and she called me her pet, and sought me out after every service. She would hug me and tell everyone who would listen how special I was. I remember a card she sent me, where she addressed my tendency to worry with a special scripture. To this day, over 50 years later, I remember her silver hair, her soft, pink skin and how she made me feel. She was my first experience of an elder teaching me how to live.

My first, but far from my last. The final "e" in care partner is for elder. Here are some truths and nuggets of wisdom I have learned from elders over the years:

1) Compassion. The day I retuned to work after my husband died, an elder was waiting for me at the elevator. She held her arms out to me as I knelt at her wheelchair and we both sobbed. I don't remember much else from that day, but I remember her compassion.

2) Friendship. Doris has an anxiety disorder and Glenda is blind. They go everywhere together, as Doris helps Glenda find her way, and Glenda encourages Doris to be brave.

3) Love: For years, Mrs. Richards couldn't speak, or respond in any way, but Mr. Richards would take her for walks, talking to her in a soft voice and greeting everyone along the way.

4) Celebration. At a recent luncheon, a woman in her 90s proudly and with great love, presented a birthday card to a friend turning 106. 

5) Fun. Elders donning outrageous Easter bonnets and giving cheesecake smiles for the camera.

6) Servanthood. Loretta comes each week to knit with her friend. It's not about the knitting, really, but about helping Vera focus on the positive and keep anxiety at bay.

7) Interest. Marjorie gave one word answers to most questions since a serious medical event seemed to steal most of her language. But when we started talking about china patterns, words poured forth as she shared her knowledge.

8) Grooming. Sarah never leaves her room. She's comfortable there, and totally happy to sit in her chair and watch the world go by. Did I say never? One day a week when she is happy to leave for an hour--to visit the hairdresser.

9) Courage. Mona watches her husband struggle from the ravages of Parkinson's disease. Every day, she looks for new ways to make the struggle easier and show him respect while helping him find his way.

10) Wit. Irene was Scottish and blind, and becoming quite agitated as the piano tuner plunked away at the keys, doing his job. Her body language showed her increasing disgust. Finally, she blurted out, "If ye canna play the thing, why don't ye just leave it alone!"

Each elder has a lesson to teach.


Care Partner Wednesday--What is an elder?

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