growing old.

Posted: February 8, 2011 at 6:47 pm

i had a patient once…many years ago (karen b. will remember him) his name was harry and he was in his 90’s and in both WW1 and 2 and every moment of his life was deeply engraved in the wrinkles and valleys of his face.

i used to just look at him and think he was so breathtakingly beautiful….this ancient old man with his craggy face.

we do not value our seniors…not just our animal seniors but our human elders too. we don’t make them feel proud and precious because they are still alive.
i look at it this way….anyone who can with a good heart survive thru birth to extreme old age in their lifetime…has to be a hero.

getting really old is so very hard…so many losses..friends, family, physical and mental function and comfort….independence and self worth. every thing just becomes so much more difficult. and with these losses, the biggest loss of all is when they start losing who they were.

treat our elderly gently…we don’t have to point out or get them to agree that they are forgetting to take their pills frequently. we don’t have to tell them that they have not had a bath in many long weeks and they are forgetting to change their clothing too. we can just simply and kindly help them to keep doing these things.
we can avoid reminding them that we work full time and have families to care for and cannot be available for their every beck and call. and if we try really hard…we can take the burden that they have become in our lives and help them to feel that they are a true gift. it is not their fault we feel frustrated at their failings, it is not their fault that they need more help from us today…we don’t have to make them feel like they are useless or a problem or a frustrating worry because they are in fact…none of these things. and we can help them now, kindly and respectfully and gratefully in their hours of need.

they are our fathers and mothers who cared for us for many years, they are the generation whose past has enabled our present and future. all of them have spent the better part of a century raising their families, caring for grandchildren, building our family traditions, fighting our wars for freedom, working hard, going hungry thru the depression years…they paid the taxes that sent us to the moon and put the first satellites up in the air so today we could have cell phones.

the ancient survivor ones are a precious gift to all of us….they gave so that we could receive.
we have to honor them, we have to treat them gently and with dignity…we have to pay them back for so much of everything.

i hear the frustation in voices when they speak to the very elderly…i hear it in the voices of families..i hear it from doctors and nurses…we don’t have time to let them process things now so we rapid fire questions and won’t listen to their answers with their sometimes seemingly, never ending stories. and we contradict them constantly and tell them they are wrong in whatever it is that they are trying to say or remember.

we want them to be quick…we want them to understand, we want them to admit and agree….easily.

but things no longer come quickly or easily when you are really old..things are forgotten, we develop black holes that sucked up our short term memories. our vision and hearing get foggy. we can see the past so clearly but today is lost. our backs and knees can’t bend very well and it is an almost impossible struggle to put on clean socks…if you even have any that are not full of holes. shopping and banking becomes a frightening thing…we suffer from shortness of breath, the traffic lights at the crossings change so very fast and we might forget where we live when we try to make our way back home again.

and everywhere around you, is a world that you don’t know anymore and you see in the mirror of others faces and voices, their frustrations at the losses you have had. it frightens you that somehow you have changed from an asset to a burden overnight.

and everyone that you knew and trusted who understood who you once were… have already gone ahead of you and died.

and now you are no one…just a useless old person…whoever you once were doesn’t count anymore….now you are old and problem to be solved.

why do we make them feel like that?

it has been a tough week at work.

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11 Comments on "growing old."

  • Mauro Salles says

    Because we are afraid of getting old.

  • Tracy says

    Wow Carol, you made me cry tonight because that is exactly what my family is doing to my 93 year old grandmother…making her feel slow, useless, a burden. She still lives in her own home and the closest relative is 1 hour away on snowy, icy winter roads. The family is trying to get her to move out of her home into senior’s housing. She wants to stay in her own home where it feels comfortable and is full of wonderful memories from the last 40 years. You reminded me to cherish her and remember that she is NOT a burden. Thank you.
    PS – I agree that society also needs to cherish our elderly animals and not dump them on shelters when they need our help the most.

  • Barbara DeMott says

    Oh Geez, Carol, I needed to read this (family crisis with elderly relative going on)
    Thank you

  • Charlotte says

    I’m with you, Mauro! No one wants to see their future so clearly.
    Babies are just as “helpless and useless” as old people, and they’re treated like a precious commodity. Old people, who’ve actually contributed a lifetime to society already, sadly are not. Shame.

  • Carol Ann says

    Thank you !

  • Jenn says

    this post is epic

  • Marg says

    Thank you, Carol…for these touching thoughts. I am saddened that your day didn’t go well, but remember that tomorrow is another day, and the sun shines no matter how many clouds are up there!

    I’m feeling MY age! I’m frightened now because the years have flown by, and I’ve become my mother. I look at my husband, and can’t believe that he has become old! The future looks bleak for us, there is not much to look forward to. Family is gone, no friends… so grateful for the love of our 3 dogs and cats. But wow! my “pup” will be 7 years old this fall already. Thank Dog they are all still relatively healthy, but….

    Sliding down the far side of the hill, time goes so fast. The unknowns are getting to me. It’s 1 a.m. and I KNOW I won’t be able to sleep again! The thoughts ran rampant!

    Your article brought to mind a tragic story from our nearby city from a couple years ago…. I never knew the old man who was instantly killed, but his story resonated with me and has stuck with me. He was just out gathering bottles, and then….. I wish he could know how much his death affected me! If you wish to read his story, I found the link to the front page of the newspaper…

    http://www.canada.com/saskatoonstarphoenix/news/story.html?id=7eadefb4-74db-4d9f-9f0e-54b6106bee96

    Thank you kindly for your writing…keep up the excellent work. I stop by regularly to keep up with SAINTS!

  • Debbie R says

    Thank you for putting into much better words than I could have ever done. Since going into health care myself – I see this almost daily. I love seeing the smile on their face and the twinkle in their eyes when I listen intently to stories of their youth (sometimes 3 and 4 times) and laugh along with them as if it was the first time I am hearing it. Or playing the part of a dear loved one they are so excited to see. Sometimes it’s not all fuzzy bunnies and rainbows – but that’s okay too. They’ve earned the right to be who they are!
    So, thank you again Carol.

  • Marisa says

    A beautiful post.

  • Cam says

    wow, that is an amazing post!

  • Virginia says

    Carol, this post should go further than your blog…there are so many people that need reminding of this. Well said and well written!

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