For Senior Women: A Personal Journey Caring for My Elderly Parents

Mar 31st, 2010 | By Jeannine Becker | Category: For Senior Women

My father is 94 and he is walking 1 1/4 miles two or three times weekly.  That is more than I’m doing!   His wife is 83 and she’s right there beside him.  So last week, I joined them and as good as the walk is for my body,  the quiet lessons of life are more greatly enriching my soul.

Dad does not want to give up his driver’s license.  Dad does not want to be told what to do.  Dad does not want to be told what NOT to do.  These characteristics…better yet, these attitudes, are clear, right out there, cannot be missed!   He will get in your face with his position if he feels there’s a threat against him.  What I’m learning is that there is another level of human need at work in my father’s life…in all our lives, probably….the need to be treated with dignity and respect. 

One of my sisters has worked as a hospice nurse, or administrator for 150 years.  (that means a long, long, long, long time).  Although she doesn’t live near dad, as I or my other two sisters do, she has become one of his primary caretakers.  I had conversation with her last week that has opened my eyes and heart and has changed my outlook toward all humanity, but especially my parents.  She explained to me how hospice respects the need and desire that each of us has to maintain some control over our lives.  Varying circumstances put us in positions that affect the amount of control we have.  And as we age, we continually lose pieces of control of our very own lives. 

Dad is losing control of his mind.  It is a form of dementia that results in loss of memory,  not long term memory but what we talked about 1 minute ago.  He’s very aware of this loss and very sad about it.    My sister reminded me of the humiliation and sadness of those who have lost control of bodily functions and are confined to their bed or wheelchair.  Consequently, hospice, when they interact with their clients, very aware of this need we all have for control of our lives,  will do everything in their power to give to their client all the measure of control they can.  For example, walking into a room, the nurse will ask which chair or where their client would like them to sit.   If they can do nothing else, they can tell you where to sit.

I have become keenly aware of what I say and even how I say it when I’m in conversation with my parents now.  In fact, I’m aware of controlling words or tone of voice in any conversation these days, whether it is with my husband, brother-in-law, my sister or my children and grandchildren.  I have learned that I can steal dignity from someone simply by my tone of voice.   I have decided I want to live the rest of my life being a respector of the dignity of others.



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