September 12, 2009 by David Gillaspie
A guest at DG’s B&B held this photo of a standing Franklin D. Roosevelt when she talked about her life:
“From a distance elder care brings out the best we have to offer. Up close is a different picture. Predators looking for easy scores come out of the woodwork. Sometimes they are strangers, sometimes family members. It always feels worse when a family member sacks their mom’s bank account.
Waiting for a parent to reach old age before getting even is a sign of weak character. If you have a mommy or daddy problem don’t expect to work it out after their dementia diagnosis. If a parent’s doctor tells you they are on the last lap of their life, don’t rush out to gain power of attorney and sell their house.
Instead, think of elderly parents as the only recipient of your best nature. See them as the one person in the history of the world you will be kind to from now on. Just remember that kindness isn’t always milk and cookies.
A show of kindness means doing the right thing consistently. If your loved one says they are too tired to get out bed, be kind. Be understanding. Then get them out of bed.
If a loved one says they don’t feel like standing up from their lift chair, give them a moment then help them up. Your kindness isn’t found in letting them do what they want when you know what they need to do. That’s your laziness. Kindness is finding a way to motivate them to move.
Once you understand the difference between kindness and your laziness you will become an effective advocate for the elderly. If you have difficulty grasping the difference, go watch a high school wrestling match. It doesn’t matter which high school. Wrestling matches all have similar results.
Watch carefully when two opponents approach each other. Pick the likely winner and see if they come through. If the outcome is quick, note if one made a mistake or the other folded. The greatest athletes make mistakes, but they cover them up which is what makes them great. Lesser beings make the same mistake and suffer greater consequences.
Once you learn the lessons of wrestling, apply them to caring for a loved one. They may have a debilitating injury or disease, but plot a way around it. If you’re working with someone with Parkinson’s like my father in law, work with the clock.
Just like wrestlers with a lead working the clock, create a countdown for activity whether it’s taking a few laps with a walker or just stretching arms and legs. Create tension by scheduling then noting time until the next workout.
“An hour before we get some work done” does two things: First it keeps your loved one on the clock. The elderly as a whole have been time-conscious their entire lives. Dropping the clock out of their world is as disorienting as a disease. Losing time of day leads to losing day of the week, month of the year, even which year it is.
Start with the clock. If it is Parkinson’s you’re working with, an hour after the last meds give them time to kick in. This is the best time to move around.
If you walk your loved one with a walker talk about who’s driving. Walk close by on the left side with your left hand on the walker near theirs and your right hand on the middle of their back. In case of a stumble you’ll have both arms free to lock around their waist and ease them to the nearest chair, or to the ground.
If things are going good on the walk, take your hand off and tell your loved one they are driving the rig. Talk about cars they’ve owned, new cars on the market, dream cars neither of you will ever drive. They’ll transfer the idea of the car to their walker. Dementia is a terrible thing, but not when you can convince someone their walker is a Corvette and get them amped up for a spin.
The kindness you show by enabling a loved one to get on their feet and move around is reflected in the reverse: Would you want to stay in bed? Stay in a chair? In all truthfulness you can say you would. This is the moment you realize the Golden Rule: If you can move, then move; if you can get your loved one to move, then move with them.
It’s not too late for either of you.”