As an in-home care provider, I’m surrounded by my fair share of old folks. While part of my job is to cook, clean and run some errands, a larger portion is to offer them companionship, and it took me only a few visits to realize that the elderly are never done teaching you something new that you can carry for the rest of your life.
Believe in Something
As I spend more time with these people who have lived as long as they have, I realized that belief is stronger than anything else. But believe in what exactly? That’s entirely up to you.
Some have religion — a faith in a higher power that’s going to lead them forward. Others believe in love and family, which create the relationships that bind up and make people who they are.
Some simply find their power from believing in the ability to stand up on their own or pick something up without the need of aid. Their belief could be big; it could be small as well.
Neither does size nor other’s opinions on its significance matters. Believe in whatever you will, but always hold that belief dear.
Your Bodies and Soul Are Not the Same
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, as a care provider, there will be times when you have to work with an elderly categorized as “end of life.” Not much more can be done for them besides keeping them company and make them as comfortable as possible.
I’ve faced plenty of these situations before and the prospect does not get easier, but it’s the spirits of these men and women that never fail to amaze me: they are 10 times stronger than the bodies they reside in.
Their brains are still full of ideas, voices still full of joy and eyes still full of life when they look at me. It’s at bittersweet moments such as these that I understand that people are not their bodies.
Their bodies are the shells that keep them who they really are. While bodies will eventually break down, your spirit is harder to shatter.
Positivity Goes a Long Way
There will always be days when I do not feel up to it, whether that is the job, the errands afterward or the idea of having to get out of bed at all. It’s inevitable, but that feeling of drag can’t be brought to the lives and homes of several 80-year-old clients whose highlight of their day is having a visitor.
So what happens? I put on the best smile I’m able to and go to work like any other day. That’s when Jayne gives me a hug or Estella says that she loves and appreciates me. And that’s it.
That’s all it takes to lift that grey cloud off me. The message of positivity isn’t new, but it still baffled me that the people who I was supposed to take care of were ready to take care of me when I needed it.
It’s Okay to Fear Aging
When I was a kid, I was told not to be afraid of getting older, and I wasn’t until I started to understand that the older you are, the more likely you are to die. It was a brutal realization to any kid.
Now that I work with the elderly, I’m faced with the fact that these people are the products of aging and what it does to a person, which is so much different from seeing my grandma, who’s healthier than people half her age. I began to fear the aging process, and it turns out to be just okay.
Many clients of mine fear it too, but they claim the very fear itself keeps them fighting back. They know they’re old. They know aging has taken a toll. They know the fear but let that fear fuel what they do day to day.
Slow Down and Take a Breath
“Stop and smell the roses” is a quote that is too often said and seldom practiced. I can already tell as a 21-year-old that time flies and in no time at all, I will no longer be in my 20s. It’s unnerving. I can only imagine what it’s like being those in their 70s, 80s or 90s and having that feeling of time passing by even faster.
While the elderly rarely seem to have many regrets, they do wish that they had appreciated what every single day offered. Life is full of family, marriage, work, school and so many other aspects that fill up our 24 hours in a blink.
Before you know it, you’ve graduated high school, finished college, got married, hit your 50th birthday and have had grandkids of your own. I’ve learned that although I look forward to tomorrow, there’s no shame in taking a break from it and appreciating the present.
These lessons may seem cliché, which is true, but coming from someone of an older age, their meanings change. It’s clear that the elderly have lived a life that some of us may never fully understand and only a few will ever truly be able to live ourselves.
They have done the hard part for us, maneuvering the ups and downs, the good and bad of life, so the least that we can do it learn from their experiences. There will be a day when I’m that age, and I can only hope that there are those who can learn from me.