The elderly. Baby boomers. Record number of seniors coming of age. Who is going to take care of them? Do you want to? Many will say no and rely on caregivers whether they are family members or professionals from agencies. And, of course, nobody wants to pay them. Or the very minimal at best. A wage they can’t even live on. Do you realize what they do is so important in so many ways? It’s not just the daily living skills, bathing assistance, and household help they provide. It’s that daily smile, laughs, conversation, companionship, caring or recreational activity. The stuff that feeds one’s soul. Makes them feel alive. Gives them something to look forward to. A reason to live. A reason to smile. Your senior’s well-being depends on them! And how much is that worth???
David the maintenance man: doesn’t just fix stuff. Always with a smile, he engages them in fun, lively, conversation. He takes care of every single need in their mind. Things we consider unimportant details are like an IRS audit to seniors. Stressful until it’s taken care. David makes a special trip back to bring two batteries for remote light switches. Stress relief. Whether it’s getting their garbage to the curb for pickup, bringing back the picture on the tv, changing a lightbulb, getting the garage door to obey commands, instructions on the tv remote (or adaptations, like tape over some buttons, to meet their cognitive skill level), ensuring that emergency pull cords in the bathrooms will work if they should fall and so on. Nothing left undone. Even if it means several visits a day.
Annie the pet caregiver: doesn’t just complete her tasks and leave. She checks on the seniors to make sure they are safe and their surroundings are safe. Annie takes the time to engage that senior, making them feel special, loved, important, and worthwhile. She doesn’t have to but she does. Even if it puts her way behind schedule. That particular senior is most important at that time. She showers their pets with love, attention, and concern for their health and well-being too. She will haul them off to the vet if necessary. It’s not just the degree in zoology or her past experience working at a zoo that makes her professional. It’s her attitude, conduct and caring.
Angelik the caregiver: always a big smile with a big hug. She is there to meet their needs of the day. Whether it be a bath, grocery shopping, errands, getting that isolated senior out of the house for a meal or entertainment or maybe just listening. Which is just as important. Many seniors are depressed and lonely. Their health and mobility, and that of many friends are compromised. They see dear friends suffer. Or lose their mind. Or die. Caregivers soften those blows. Make life more manageable. Often, they are the only way for your senior to stay in their own comfortable, familiar home. Priceless.
And what about the family caregiver? It’s always just one child that steps up to the plate to take on this responsibility. The others sorta dance around it and have such great excuses for not being more involved. To you, I say: at least give your sibling regular respites of varying lengths. That’s the least you can do. Unless you have actually been there as a caregiver, you have no idea how exhausting, stressful and frustrating it can be. 24/7 worry is part of it. It chases you in your dreams.
David, Annie, and Angelik are only a few examples of the rays of sunshine that lucky seniors receive. They are stars in the sky. Breaths of fresh air. Highpoints of the day. They empower the seniors (ever so important since they have lost so much control over their own lives not to mention the uncertainty of their future).
Their job is not easy. It requires a lot of skill and knowledge to understand seniors, to have the required patience, to recognize their individual cognitive skill levels to meet their needs accordingly. And to tolerate the abuse that inherently comes with the decline in mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning. To remain calm when they want to scream. They care for people and then find a way to care a little more.
Your seniors need these people. And so do you. More than you realize. Treat them accordingly. Value them. Honor them. Reward them. Respect them. Help them. They are to be cherished.