Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Old Folks

Lately I have been thinking about my parents and the older folks in our lives. A lot of them are gone now but some still remain and really struggle with their lives as seniors. Sometimes it is easy to lose patience with them, especially if they are grumpy and hard to manage. If you are a caregiver you know what I am talking about~it is no walk in the park, to be sure.

When my mom was sick and in a convalescent home for nearly 12 years I would often wonder; what is the point of their continued existence? The quality of their lives can be nearly non-existent. Many are so miserable, lonely and frightened by their dementia, illnesses, and solitude and fear of death. As I have pondered this I feel their purpose is to teach others to be more compassionate, more Christlike, more thankful, and better prepared for the time when it will be their turn.

It is a great time to teach your own children how to treat aging parents and loved ones. The way they see you treat your elders is how they will eventually treat you. That should be highly motivating in and of itself, if the love and compassion haven't kicked in yet. I think it is pathetic how the elderly are treated in our society.

Some of the mistakes I saw people make while I was spending so much time with the old folks were pretty hair-raising. Here are some things I believe every human being deserves in their later years.

Someone to love them and visit them often.

Quality time where they can feel and see that you care.

Someone to validate their contribution to society.

Someone to show them respect and kindness.

Someone to hug them and kiss them and verbalize all of the above.

Someone to advocate for them regarding their medical and spiritual and temporal needs.

Someone who does not talk down to them or constantly correct them when they make mistakes.
That usually leads to them talking less and less until they fall silent and die.

Someone that allows the elderly person to make the reasonable choices
for themselves and helps them think through issues in a non-demeaning way.

No one wants to lose all of their independence.

Someone who respects their dignity and privacy, as is appropriate.

Someone to listen to their fears and concerns and to give support and reassurances.

Someone to coordinate family visits and to let them have time with their grandchildren and other people that are important to them.

Someone who has their best interest at heart, someone like you.

Caring for the aging population is not an easy task. It is hard no matter how much you love them. It is a privilege, however, that will change you for the better. God in his total brilliance has thought of everything. Every last detail has been considered to make you the best possible person, by a loving Father who knows what we need.

If you are blessed enough to have your parents for most of your life be thankful! Embrace the time when you can repay a fraction of the debt you owe them for their lifetime of service to you.

And if they haven't been the best parent to you~do it anyway. It will be your opportunity to heal and learn to love them more than you do now. I did this for 12 years and my mom was easy, kind and compliant. I still know the hardships, the struggles and the tears of it. But I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I couldn't love my mother as much as I do now had I not had that opportunity to serve her in this most precious and intimate way.
It was not easy but it was so worth it. Serving well is the way to make the best of a very difficult situation.

Paintings by my favorite artist~Pino


laura.elizabeth said...

This is a beautiful post Mom and I agree wholeheartedly. I can not tell you how much I grew to love Grandma over her years at Stonebrook. I often wonder if I would have ever really gotten to know her if she wasn't there. I learned compassion and sacrifice and service and patience as I watched her and you and others who cared for her. I know it was hard for everyone but I am grateful for those year- they have blessed my life. Thanks for your thoughts on how we should treat older people- I will stash that away somewhere special for the day when YOU are that older person in my life! :-) I love you!

Laura said...

Such beautiful thoughts, a great reminder!