My mother is a nurse who has spent her life caring for elderly patients. About 12 years ago she began her own elderly care home which eventually grew into five. She would always ask me to go into her homes and take care of chores and handy work. I would get in and out as quickly as I could, I was just too busy to stay and chat and I did not know what I would say to these people who were at least 50 years older than me. We just had nothing in common.
One day my mom needed me to ride with one of our patients, Miss Kitty, to her doctor appointment. Miss Kitty is in a wheelchair, and she weighs about 400lbs., she has smoked her entire life and has a very low raspy voice. We need an ambulance to transport her because she does not fit in a car and a hoist is needed to move her. I told myself it would only be a couple of hours.
Miss Kitty and I took our ride together in the back of an ambulance, and we talked the entire trip. She regaled me with stories of surfing in Hawaii, hiking in remote locations, and mountain biking, and as she told me her story she lit up. She even promised she would take me to Hawaii and teach me to surf. I knew we were not going to Hawaii, but I loved the time I spent with her. We both felt special that day because we had shared some of ourselves. A few days later I was talking with my mom and she told me that Miss Kitty had suffered from Polio as a child. She told me she had been paralyzed since she was six years old. Many people could say that she had lied but in her crippled mind she has found a way to cope. She has spent her life in a wheelchair but in her story she is a surfer, a hiker, and a traveler. She has lived a full life and is a woman with a lifetime of experiences real or not.
It is easy to write the elderly off, claim they are slow, senile, or forgetful but instead I have learned to treat everyone of our patients as if they were my own grandparent. After that I began to spend a few extra minutes at our homes whenever I was there to work. I would sit and have a snack or watch a little TV, or go in the backyard and pick fruit with the people we cared for. I believe I can walk a little slower, listen a little longer and speak a little louder. I can make someone feel as if they have something to give and wisdom to share with a small amount of my time and consideration. I believe the elderly are amazing and sweet and they deserve to be listened to, cared for, and feel like they matter.
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