Dirty Little Secrets
Our culture tends to romanticize things or speak in euphemisms about the hard stuff.
Nobody tells new mothers just how challenging the 24 hour presence of a newborn is. It would sound ungrateful. We soldiered on in relative silence, and unless you have the luxury and the joy of a family nearby that consists of supportive women: loving and wise aunts, grandparents and a trusted mother, it is a daunting stretch those first months and then really the first years. Spreading the responsibility helps both parents and the baby.
Caring for an older adult is also a 24 hour cycle in some ways. They are fragile in different ways, but their view of the world is also scaled down to their immediate needs much like a baby. Their medicine, their lunch, what clothes to wear, is the TV working, what outing they can expect or decline today? The subject of ‘toileting’ as it’s called in polite parlance is a topic unto itself. The lack of social barriers for some, makes everything that goes on in the bathroom something to share!
As your day goes on at the speed of light , stepping back into the world of the elder is like slamming on the brakes! Yet in the quest for efficiency, if you whiz around doing tasks , while they try to compute the activity ,they find it jarring or even disrespectful.
I can’t say neurologically what goes on but it is clear they process data much slower. Like a child, one needs to speak slowly and clearly. And share one fact or request at a time. Like my daughter at age 4 told me, “ Mom, I can only handle so many things at once!” So learning to pace yourself is an acquired skill. You must try to arrange your own mental climate so that you are not resisting the pace, because that shows up as frustration.
Adapting to thinking like/for elders who have endured significant loss of function is also a learning curve.
Vision impairment by macular degeneration means they can’t see what’s in the fridge very well, so things have to be arranged roughly the same way every time and bought in the same brand and size. They are going by shape and color. The heat register is small. Putting a large label on it with lines to the general area of temperature helps. “Really Cold” “Daytime” “Way too hot!”. Elders don’t like bulky clothes but need to be warm. Remembering to buy very light fleece that is very soft always helps. Being fragile you can’t drag around denim or heavy sweaters. Opening containers is difficult. If they like sweet drinks or bottled water, be sure to open the tops and re-close so they can get them open. Even the foil on a yogurt cup can present problems if arthritis is an issue. Bottled drinks are too heavy for hands with arthritis or just weakness, so finding quality drinks in easy open portions and containers is key.
One has to really slow down and consider so many things younger bodies don’t think twice about. All of the above cause depression and discouragement as well, a vast subject for next time.