Sunday, June 3, 2012

Elder care

Barbara M. in NH - If you want to chat, email me:  I'd be happy to help with any Mom issues.

One of the most important things I learned over the last 6 years when we had my mom in NJ is how essential it is to have a good caretaker for your loved one.  Mom was in an independent living facility, and I wanted to keep her there as long as possible.  She hated the idea of a nursing home, and I wanted this little place with its neat community to be her home.  As she aged, she needed more and more help with all the little details of life:  washing up and showers, walking with her, helping her in the dining room, etc, etc. 

Mom was the most independent person I've ever known.  Tough, strong woman!  She participated in all her routines as much as she could, and had opinions right up to the end.  What she needed was a one-on-one caretaker who respected her and helped her when she wanted or needed it.  One day when her aide speared a piece of food onto the fork and wanted to feed her, she retorted:  "I'm not a toddler.  I'm a grown woman.  I can feed myself!"  That, dear readers, is the essential Mommie!  And her aide totally accepted that, and let her be as independent as possible.

Mom's aide, the incredible Christine, became her friend, her buddy, her helper.  When Mom wanted an argument, Christine went along with it.  When Mom didn't want a shower occasionally, Christine concurred.  In short, every day, my mom got to interact with the most caring woman alive, and that enabled her to keep her mind and body going.

The other great thing about having an aide, is that her aide became her mother, while I was able to remain as her daughter.  Mom kept her dignity right to the end, and that was important to her. 

Dignity and self-respect are so important to elderly folks.  We tend to think that ancient old people have totally lost it,  and certainly there are many folks who have Alzheimers and serious dementia, but it is essential to treat everyone with kindness and respect.  Don't make your parent feel bad because she is incontinent or somewhat fuzzy.  As my almost-10 year old granddaughter says:  "Grandma, old people are still people; they're just older than we are." 

Tell your mom or dad how nice they look.  They will love you for it.  Ask for advice now and then, and they will rise to the occasion.  They're your folks:  they brought you into the world, and now you're returning the favor and helping them in their old years.  So treat them kindly and without anger.  

Off my soapbox.  As a reward, here's a mommie story:

Back in March, when she was in the hospital for a week, a physical therapist came to her room to help her walk.  The Mommie, being the Mommie, told him in no uncertain terms, that exercise was boring.  We all yelled at her to keep doing it anyhow, and we earned a good finger wagging!  She walked some more, grumbling all the way, and the therapist fell in love with her! And that was The Mommie!

Hey, Mom, I miss you.

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