Making a caregiving decision means more than scheduling a caregiver to take mom to a doctor’s appointment or scheduling a caregiver to ensure dad eats his meals, takes his meds and has a laugh or two throughout his day or perhaps, you are worried about how mom starts her day in the morning, is she safe getting out of bed, preparing her own breakfast, dressing in new clothes every day? These are real life examples of tasks that help our beloved elders with the activities of daily living (ADLs). These are important tasks that enable our beloved elders to age successfully at home despite functional decline due to the natural progression of aging. But more than the tasks are the changes in your life – your home life, your work life, your social life, your family life, and equally important, the cognitive, physical, social changes impacting the life of your elder, whom you believed would always stay 35 years old as a child. I did! Today, our elders are outliving their neighborhoods, friends and bank accounts. These changes are complicated and in some cases, the losses occur inch by inch, creating a domino effect over a long period of time, decade after decade. As a daughter, sister and granddaughter, I understand you because I experienced the same — inch by inch.
This is what I know for sure about ADIA, our nation and our elders:
- Love never dies.
- Cherish your elders.
- Use old fashion strategies of accepting the changes — maximize the positives, be optimistic and focus on what is working well.
- Life is never the same when caring for an elder, but life is not over.
- As a nation, we are not organized in a way that makes aging easy like the small font size on the menu of a restaurant in a dark space.
- You can’t have a cup of coffee with the chandelier of a “Senior Facility.” The search is for the right people – search for love and respect.
- The best gift to learn from our elders is their resiliency.
- Honoring our elders begin with language such as use the word “Elder, not Elderly.” Everything else (eg. “task”) will follow.
- Live in their (elder) world. For starters, try it for at least 1 day.
- Plan the next family reunion!
If the nerve endings of you and I connect on the above statements, I hope to have the honor and pleasure to serve your beloved elder by our Living Vow (mission statement) of “To Have and To Hold…” with Civility, Accountability and Connection.
Often times people ask me “Why ADIA?” In the beginning, my response was long, statistical, business-talk and underwhelming. But over time, my life has changed and as a result, so has my worldview. Thus, when people ask “Why ADIA?” my response is best described in my favorite poem by Julia Kasdorf, “What I Learned from My Mother”.
Lastly, cherish your elders, be flexible and let the phone ring 20 times when calling your elder parent – it’s okay, or wait an additional 20 minutes after you knock on the front door of your elder parent – it’s okay, or if you ask a question of your elder parent, expect the answer to be in the form of a long story, with pauses and repetition – it’s okay.
Life is shorter, and even more precious than ever before.
Yours Most Sincerely,
Pamela Penson, MBA, PhD
Celebrate ADIA's 12th Anniversary!
What I Learned from My Mother
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
By Julia Kasdorf