Care for the Elderly

WANA: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

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My mother and her beloved panda

This morning when I went to my 95 year-old mother’s assisted living home to visit her, she and a 90 year-old lady named Mamie and a new caregiver-in-training named Candy were sitting in the living room. Erica, the caregiver on duty who was training Candy, was in the bedroom of another lady, helping her with her morning preparations. The fourth resident, Fran, was still asleep.

Mamie was sitting by the doorway from the den to the entry hall, all dolled up to go out. I soon learned she had a doctor’s appointment and was awaiting her ride.

After I greeted and hugged Mother, I introduced myself to Candy, who turned out to be the daughter of one of the long-time caregivers I know well and like a lot. I was glad she was there and not too busy. Visiting with someone who asks every three minutes what I’ve been doing isn’t easy. It helps to have someone else to talk to also.

Mother started in on one of her favorite themes: she was hungry, and no one would give her anything to eat. Of course, she hadn’t been up from the breakfast table over an hour when I got there, but she doesn’t remember, and she’s sure no one has fed her. Candy assured me she’d had oatmeal and toast and had eaten every bit of it, along with two or three cups of coffee.

After a bit, Mamie asked Candy to get her lap blanket from her room. Candy asked her if she was cold, and Mamie said, “No, they haven’t told me anything.”

So it goes in the lives of these caregivers. This is not a big facility. It’s a house in a residential neighborhood, designed for a maximum of seven people and currently home to four. Candy’s presence was unusual. She was only there along with another caregiver because she was in training. Normally there is only one in attendance at a time.

One caregiver for four to seven people is an acceptable load most of the time, except when she’s got one resident in the bathroom (they all need help) and the doorbell rings. Or when they’re trying to wheel all of them to the dining table and the phone rings. At times like that, they can get pretty busy.

I’ve never asked one of these ladies—or their boss—how much they’re paid. It’s none of my business. But whatever it is, it’s not enough for the work they do and the love they give to these elderly people who frequently return their love with crotchety snapping. I try to reassure them as often as possible the we family members love them and appreciate all they do for our loved ones.

Have you had occasion to deal with a parent or other person in an assisted living or nursing home? What was your impression of the aides who did the scut work of caring for them?

 

clip_image003David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel himself.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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36 Responses to Care for the Elderly

  1. Shad says:

    Good to know she is in good hands. I don’t think any of the care givers in the medical field get the true thanks they deserve. The other day I tracked down the paramedics that tried to save my mom. I sent them a letter telling them how much I was thankful for them being there and what they did to try and save my mom. It is good to know our family see these people and stops to say thank you.

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  2. Thanks, Amberr. That’s what makes these caregivers so extra special.

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  3. Terrific post, David. I used to volunteer in hospice settings and wow, did I ever gain respect for those caretakers—family, volunteer and hired. It takes a special soul to do that kind of work, particularly on a full time basis.

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  4. Donna Newton says:

    I had a friend who was a carer. She saw the elderly being mistreaded, complained, and was promptly ‘let go’ (sacked).

    There are so many wonderful carers out there who are loving and loyal to their patients….and they should be paid well for it. The others should be shot!

    Luckily, your mum sounds as if she is surounded by wonderful people, David.

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  5. David, being in the medical field, I know the caregivers are not making anywhere near what they deserve. I truly believe they are in those jobs only because they are nuturing people. It takes a very special person to look after the elderly – someone with patience, understanding and a hard shell. I think it’s wonderful that you and your family let them know how much they are appreciated. I’m sure it makes their jobs worthwhile.

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  6. Marcia says:

    Caregivers seem tireless, but their work is exhausting, mentally and physically. My mother is in assisted living in a huge apartment building with dozens of aides. Most are young women and men, My mom marvels at how nice the aides are to the cranky old ladies and the more handicapped folks who are sometimes in pain constantly. So, mom takes it upon herself to tell the aides what a great job they’re doing and tries to get the cranky old ladies to lighten up. She makes me laugh. At 88, she’s still pretty sharp and only beginning to get forgetful, which bothers her terribly. She always says that she’s 35 on the inside and it’s too bad it doesn’t show on the outside. 🙂

    It’s wonderful that your mom has such great caregivers. I think 7 per aide is a lot when there’s no one around to help in a pinch. So, kudos to those women!
    It’s hard, I imagine, to deal with a senile parent. What I try to remember about my aging mom is that she doesn’t want to be aging any more than we want her to.

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    • Thanks, Marcia. It’s easy to remember that she doesn’t want to be aging. The hard part is remembering the person she’s always been and comparing that person to who she is now. It’s just sort of a sweet sadness.

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  7. I witnessed two situations with elderly care, David.

    One was my MIL in what we thought was an upscale facility in our suburban area, but it was a constant battle to keep track of her clothes and make sure she was properly attended.

    My mom suffered early onset Alzheimer’s and was institutionalized for over a decade. She was in a smaller facility, but still not a residential situation. This facility was located in a rural farm community in Pennsylvania. We were blessed with caring people who spent whatever time they needed to make sure Mom ate, got out of bed, was dressed properly. Their patience and obvious care for her was such a blessing.

    It takes special people who DO NOT EARN what they deserve to show this loving kindness.

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  8. When my mother was preparing to leave us after a long battle with cancer, she was fortunate enough to be able to stay in her own home. Her mind was sharp until the end. My sister and I spent the last month with her, but she had hospice that came in every day to help. Kathy is the kindest, most loving lady I know, and we are still close friends, even though we live hundreds of miles apart. Last summer, fifteen years after our mother’s passing, my sister and I were able to make a trip and visit with Kathy for a few days. We had a wonderful time laughing, crying, and sharing. I hope her corner of heaven is filled with wonderful surprises when she gets there.

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  9. Aw, this is such a sweet post, David. By the way, my son has that pillow pal ~ they are SO soft!

    I don’t have anyone in assisted living and I don’t know how I’ll fare when I do (I can see it happening for my mom in about 3-5 years), but I hope I handle it with as much compassion and grace as you do. When my step-mom had cancer, we would bring the hospital staff gift cards and treats because they work their tails off for the patients.

    Thanks for recognizing those that take care of our loved ones.

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  10. Catie Rhodes says:

    My Gran spent the last months of her life in a nursing home. She was still pretty sharp mentally. She had cancer, though, and needed medical care nobody in the family could provide at home.

    The caregivers…*sigh*. It is probably a pretty low-paying job considering all they have to put up with. That acknowledged, we really had to stay on them to make sure Gran got what she needed. And perhaps that is just life in small town East Texas, where it sometimes seems like a third world country.

    Either way, those folks knew my mom and her sisters by the time Gran passed away. I am sure they were glad to see all of us go. LOL

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  11. Wow David. My heart just wrenched. I can’t imagine although I know that someday I very well may. I think the attendants who do this kind of work are near Godly in their devotion and dedication to the elderly. You are right, whatever they are paid, it’s not enough!

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  12. David: I remember when my Nan had to move into an independent-assisted facility at age 92. She was furious. There was no room for her things, and she swore she’d never leave her room or meet anyone. She was a stubborn one, and –true to her word — she hung out in her room most of the time. Being a caregiver is such a thankless job. You are so right! They were the people who made sure my Nan was eating, sleeping and they even got her out, once in a while. How lucky you are to have your mother! And how lucky she is to have you and your sibs to love her like you do.

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  13. Marji Laine says:

    This is a great post, David. I know most of us will have some type of care needed for our aging parents. When the time comes, I hope my mom has the blessings that your mom seems to have. (But I hope that’s a LONG time coming!)

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  14. Karlene says:

    Caregivers are special people with special talents. Your mother is fortunate to have you, as well as her caregivers. I understand the concept of nice having someone else there with you.

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  15. Recognizing sensitive and kind caregivers is so important. Often they are overworked and underpaid and the recipients of complaints and criticism rather than gratitude. Well done, David.

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  16. Great post! We hear so much about senior abuse but little about caregivers who are truly dedicated to the comfort of seniors.

    My father was hospitalized for nine months after having a stroke and becoming paralyzed on the left side. I always worried about his care but for the most part, i could tell that he was well looked after. It might have helped that the staff knew he had daily visitors but I like to think that even if he hadn’t, the nurses and aides would have taken good care of him anyway.

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  17. David, what a touching post. My grandma died in 2002 after a long battle with Alzheimers. She was in assisted living for the last 5-7 years. Long before she was in a care home, my grandfather – a farmer – learned to do all the household chores, including baking her favourite cookies. When she moved into the care home, he continued to bake those cookies. When she died, Grandpa frequently baked cookies and brought them to the caregivers. Eventually, Grandpa also ended up at the care home. The caregivers loved him for the two years he was there. And it’s no wonder why.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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  18. Hi I liked your blog. I am an RN with many years experience as a state surveyor for long term care. If you would like to read a couple of my blogs on LTC go to shirley-mclain.net and look for Long Term Care. You are right, care givers do not earn nearly enough money for the kind of work they have to do.

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  19. Barb Estinson says:

    Wonderful blog, David. We both know how hard the caretakers work. I am always amazed that they don’t let the crabby comments of confused residents (our mom included) get to them at all. I know they are trained to expect that … but still, it would take heart, patience, and love. I am so grateful for Mom’s wonderful caretakers. I hope other assisted living homes have such wonderful people.

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