How do I know this?
I have been surprised by the comments I have received from people who have come up to me and have acknowledged my caregiving for my aging parents. I’m getting comments like, ” thank you for what you are doing.” That’s odd, considering the people giving the compliments usually aren’t relatives. They are neighbors, people I go to church with, the staff at the doctor’s office, or the barber who cuts my father’s hair.
What’s significant is I didn’t think other people noticed, much less cared. But they do. That’s why it is more important than ever that we set the right example, especially for those who are younger. Remember, they may be caregiving for us some day. What goes around comes around, right?
But there is something even more powerful happening. We live in a world that is often cold, heartless and seemingly hopeless. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The way we care for our elderly proves we are determined to make things better, one person at a time. From there we form our own communities as we surround ourselves with new friends who are also caregiving. We can learn from them as they learn from us. It is an enrichment process which adds new dimensions to our lives.
Yes, it is difficult. No one said it would be easy. We covered some of those problems in the post last week when we discussed the exhaustion many of us feel. But there is something rewarding about having an elderly parent you can help take care of. You are giving back and that certainly makes you feel better,especially if your parents sacrificed a great deal to raise you.
Sometimes, I think it can be compared to childcare in some ways. You can feel a certain pride when your aging parent is reasonably happy, well adjusted and thriving, in spite of illness, handicaps and challenges. As we’ve pointed out, other people notice.
This reminds me of a 97 year old lady who recently died in the last week. She looked years younger, babysat her great-grandchildren regularly and quickly let everyone know not to call her while her favorite show, The Price Is Right, was on. She enjoyed good health almost up until the end, when she told her family she wasn’t feeling good.
She’s one of the exceptions. Most people don’t enjoy that high standard of living to such an advanced age, but we can make the most of our own situations. We can do that by taking the time to be with our parents. What I mean by that is to really talk to them. Learn more about their lives and the little details we hadn’t been aware of. These are also the gems we can write down and pass on to the next generation. Savor the extra time together you’ve been blessed with.
For example, I’ve learned new things about my elderly uncle. I hadn’t realized he was serving in Italy during WWII when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. He was also stationed at a school and came back one evening to take a shower. He kept hearing a man singing in the courtyard below and thought the man sang every well. He didn’t realize it was Frank Sinatra giving a show to the troops until later.
We are not doing the best job we can caregiving just because we are being watched by neighbors, friends, even strangers. We are doing it because we are called to serve in this particular way and we are discovering it can be very rewarding.