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More frequently than I can tolerate, I have visited long-term care (LTC) facilities during Holiday celebrations: July 4th, Christmas, New Years Eve, etc., and I find residents in the dementia wing with accoutrements, e.g., July 4th hats, reindeer horns, festive party hats, that the resident with Alzheimer’s or other dementia would NEVER consider wearing if they had a choice.
My suggestion: before you allow anyone to adorn your parent, spouse, grandma/grandpa, aunt/uncle with a party adornment, ask yourself this question:
What would ______ want?
Why do facility employees feel obligated to dress up their residents with what can only be described as hideous garments/accessories during Holiday seasons? It’s demeaning. It’s borderline abusive. It’s just not right unless the resident himself has chosen to wear such accessories.
Becoming a clown does not equate to living a dignified existence.
Prior to living in long-term care facilities, these senior citizens lead distinguished lives, fought in wars, managed households and families, and most likely survived tough financial times. These men and women just happen to be older now, but no less important; no less dignified. In one of my earlier articles, Be an advocate for your aging loved one, I stated, “If your loved one no longer has a voice in which to defend or advocate for herself, who better to do so than you?” Chances are in these costumed situations during the Holidays, your loved one doesn’t even see themselves in a mirror, and if they do see themselves, the image they’re seeing may not be comprehensible to them. Would they want to look like a child wearing a season-appropriate party hat? Would they have worn that hat in public prior to the advancement of dementia?
This brings to mind another article, Senior citizens are NOT children! In that article, I broached the topic of talking down to Senior Citizens by using cutesy names: caregivers do it, customer service employees do it, DON’T YOU DO IT! We have to get out of the mindset that our older population is somehow less worthy of respect simply because of their advancing age. If anything, the opposite should be occurring. All of us should honor the lives that were – and the lives that still remain. This station in life, these circumstances, are not who they are. They are simply where they are right now. Use the memories that you retain of your loved one to promote the true person they are. Don’t let others – caregivers or well-meaning friends – define your parent/spouse/family member. It is my firm belief that regardless of the severity of a person’s Alzheimer’s or other dementia, the essence of the person remains in tact. Make it your responsibility to enhance other people’s understanding of your loved one by correctly defining their true essence.
Dignity and quality of life are a right, not a privilege.
In the book, Gabby, by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly, Congresswoman Giffords’ husband, Mark, provides statements about optimism that have greatly encouraged me. Here are just a few:
- “I saw how optimism is a form of therapy and hope is a form of love.”
- “Doctors at TIRR, the rehab hospital, told us that our optimism and encouragement could make a great difference in Gabby’s recovery…”
- “To be of help to a brain-injury patient, we were told, families need to find a way to balance pragmatism and optimism.”
In a Time Magazine article published December 13, 2011, Congresswoman Giffords addresses the struggles she and her husband have endured as they continue to adjust to the “new normal” brought about as a result of a bullet that pierced her brain on January 8, 2011 when she was reaching out to her Congressional district in Arizona. So many of us have new normals as we walk, or fall, head first into Baby Boomerism. This normal may involve a loved one who has a fatal or debilitating illness. This new normal may be characterized as our own bodily/physical struggles inherent with our age. Each of us have some sort of chronic something-or-other that inhibits our ability to function at 100%.
What is the chronic something-or-other that inhibits your ability to function at 100%?
The above question is a rhetorical one. Neither myself nor the public need to know the specifics – but you know the specifics and you’re the one making long-term adjustments as a result.
What processes do you follow to unearth the optimism that exists somewhere in your psyche? How do you overcome your personal challenges so that you end most days victorious, rather than defeated?
For me, it’s acceptance. For me, acceptance doesn’t mean giving in or giving up; rather, acceptance means being o.k. with how things currently are and finding ways to succeed within that new normal. This mentality or attitude is more optimistic than you may think. Again, for me, I decided to allow optimism to nurture the hope that oftentimes is buried deep within me. Things could very well change for the better – which doesn’t have to be defined as being 100% problem-free. Nope. If I garner optimism at the start of each day, I’m making a conscious and aware decision to acknowledge and celebrate even the smallest of victories that might occur in the next 24-hours. If I wait for a humongous, star-spangled mega-victory, I may wait forever. Instead, I attempt to be aware of even the smallest improvements/goodnesses in my day so that my life is filled with many victories to celebrate. The previous sentence says that “I attempt” to garner optimism throughout my day. I don’t always succeed – but I try.
What small victory can you celebrate today?
What works for you? The rest of us would love to celebrate that victory with you.
What do you want to read and comment on? I thoroughly enjoy this blogging experience but it’s not satisfying enough for me to have a one-way written conversation. My family would be the first to say that once I get going, it’s hard to shut me up. (As of March 2016, I’ve posted 700 articles.)
But I want to enhance my own Baby Boomer experience with your wisdom, advice, successes, even failures. It’s in those practical experiences that we grow the most.
So I sincerely covet your input as to what would draw you to my “Baby Boomers and More” Blog more frequently. What topics interest you enough that you would provide comments and even contribute your own articles that I’ll press/link to my own Blog site?
Truth be told? This is not just my site – it’s out there for everyone. I hope you’ll be candid and honest with your input. Bring it on – I’m good and ready for your Baby Boomer Blog ideas.
The more a person becomes dependent on others, the more protection he needs. A person with dementia needing the assistance of others is considered a vulnerable adult. He can’t defend himself or speak up for himself. He can’t demand exceptional care, courtesy, and respect. As his advocate – that’s where you come in. When he doesn’t have a voice – you step in to be that voice. Your reward will be great if you succeed in doing so.
Part of what I do in my working life is to advocate for vulnerable adults by doing what I can to promote dignity and quality of life for those I have the privilege to serve. As a family member, or good friend, to an adult with dementia, your task is a monumental one because along with your caregiving role, you must also excel at the task of advocacy. In my blog article, “Be an Advocate for your Loved One” posted on this blog November 14, 2011, I discuss the various ways in which you can advocate for your loved one. This current article is the last article in my “Understanding Alzheimer’s and other dementia” series and it addresses the issue of dignity and privacy.
As those of us who have, or have had, loved ones with dementia we know without a shadow of doubt, that our loved one’s current condition does not reflect the pre-Alzheimer’s/dementia person. A grandmother who previously never spoke the “F-word” now speaks it as though it were just another word in her vocabulary. A previously modest and distinguished gentleman now routinely removes his clothes in front of others, and/or may be inclined to grope his caregivers or other residents. A former globally recognized businessman, sought after for his abundant knowledge in his field, now needs others to feed him and has lost the ability to string a meaningful sentence together. Our loved one’s new normal is shocking to those of us who are close to the person with dementia, and completely foreign to those who are not.
Keeping people informed about your loved one’s condition.
Those who definitely have an attachment to your loved one: friends, coworkers, close neighbors, and of course family members, will probably appreciate knowing what’s going on with him. It’s important to use discernment when deciding who needs to know – and who doesn’t. And thanks to e-mail and texting, we can update people immediately and thoroughly with no need to pick up the phone. That’s truly a bonus, isn’t it? You’re already stressed and emotionally drained by your situation so having to conduct numerous telephone calls and provide the same update to several people would be prohibitive at best.
But with the ease of e-mail comes the temptation to be too thorough in the e-mail missive. You’ve already discerned who needs to be kept updated; now you need to use judgment on how much you say and how you say it. Does your neighbor really need to know about your husband’s incontinence? How would it benefit your mother’s former coworkers to learn that their former Marketing Executive now drools throughout the day and can no longer feed herself? More to the point – ask yourself this question: How would my spouse/parent/partner/sibling/friend feel if they knew I was providing all the gory details of their dementia progression to those near and dear to them? The answer, I believe, is obvious. If they could, your loved one would say, “Please don’t let everyone know what I’ve been reduced to.” Showing respect for your loved one includes protecting her privacy, and thereby her dignity. And I’ll tell you from experience – those on the receiving end of the information would rather you be brief and not overly descriptive.
Celebrate the uniqueness of your loved one.
Your loved one is not just some generic living and breathing person in the Early, Middle or Late stage of Alzheimer’s. He may not be able to do everything he previously could – maybe he’s not even able to speak – but you can still celebrate him as a human being. Everyone mourns what’s been lost; hardly any one celebrates their loved one’s remaining attributes. I learned a lesson from my father during the middle stages of his dementia. I was quick to finish his sentences, or rush him along by answering people’s questions for him. My dad didn’t have to use words to express his displeasure when I did that. He slumped in his chair, looked at me, and let out an exasperated sigh. I stopped right then and there and made no further attempts to rush him as he conversed. Doing so would take away one of the abilities he still had – talking and getting his point across. It may have taken him a long time to complete his thought, but he still had the ability to do so. Please don’t take away the remaining vestiges of your loved one’s independence and abilities. If you feel compelled to feed your loved one just because they take a long time to eat their meal, you’re training them to rely on you for that assistance when they could have been doing it on their own. Who cares if it takes 60 minutes instead of 15 to finish a plate of food? If they’re still able to feed themselves – celebrate that ability. Don’t take it away for your own convenience.
Walk into their reality – don’t force them to enter into yours.
We’ve all experienced conversations with our loved one wherein he or she talks about things that didn’t really happen, although they are convinced that they did. What’s the harm in agreeing with them and going along with their story. Your wife says, “Didn’t you enjoy that trip to the Grand Canyon we took with the kids a few years ago?” O.K. – first of all you don’t have any children, and second of all, you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. Instead of trying to convince her of what’s real – and making her feel bad/ashamed in the process – talk about the great view, or how all the kids fell asleep in the car and missed the entire gorgeous spectacle. I can guarantee that if you change your paradigm regarding this development, both you and your loved one will be better off. The Alzheimer’s Association has a great adage that they offer us caregivers to help us along the way. If you don’t insist – they can’t resist. I challenge you to go with the flow instead of trying to paddle upstream. Don’t cause contention. A little make-believe goes a long way and harms no one.
AARP magazine reviewed the book Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer’s by Lauren Kessler. This memoir by Ms. Kessler is portrayed as “an Alzheimer’s tale that’s warm, uplifting, even hopeful – qualities not normally associated with the illness. This odd dichotomy – joy atop a ravaging disease – makes this book a refreshing standout.” Alzheimer’s and other dementia have the ability to peel away a person’s former mask to allow what’s underneath to surface – pleasant or not. What Ms. Kessler learned in her journey with her mother is that “if viewed from a different perspective, Alzheimer’s is not the end of personhood.”
Yes – dementia changes who your loved one is. It oftentimes reduces him or her to childish, and then infantile behavior. But they are still a person. They are no less worthy of your respect and your compassion. This hardest task of your life will end some day. In the interim, may you be merciful to your loved one and may those with whom you are associated support you along the way.
There are diagnostic tools in place that try to make sense of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementia; some are conclusive, while others are simply an educated guess because knowledge of this disease is evolving day by day in the medical and scientific fields. And for certain, no two people with the disease have the same manifestation thereof.
Whether or not an actual diagnosis is presented, you as family members, or perhaps as the patient, are struggling with this new reality and are attempting to carry on as normally as possible.
In the days ahead I am going to submit four articles addressing some of the challenges inherent with this disease. I am not an expert – I have no PhDs and no medical degrees – but what I do offer is advice gleaned from my own practical experience and from that of those with whom I have been fortunate to be acquainted.
The four articles will be as follows:
- Denial: Roadblock to better health and better care.
- Driving with dementia: the dangers of denial.
- Long distance caregiving (provided in two parts.)
- Preserving your loved one’s dignity.
As Charles Darwin once said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
I hope that ALL of us will have something to offer as these four articles are presented. I covet your input and hope that you feel free to provide it.
I’m truly grateful for this posting by Morris in his Musings from Third Base blog. My mother always told me that you don’t have to look very far to locate someone worse off than yourself. That doesn’t mean you ignore the valid feelings of desperation or frustration that one feels from time to time – especially as we become more and more of a Baby Boomer. But what it does mean is that we can probably honestly say that we also have a few reasons to celebrate during this stage in our lives. I don’t wait for the grandiose, huge reasons to celebrate – I don’t want to wait THAT long. Instead I celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments, or good times; that way I have far more celebratory moments in my life. Forget about not SWEATING the small stuff. Let’s CELEBRATE the small stuff that give us reasons to be grateful.
I am so pleased that I FINALLY figured out how to post someone else’s blog entry and I do so with this one by Lark Elizabeth Kirkwood. How wonderful that Lark was able to have that musical connection with her father at that time in his disease. One of the last songs I sang to my father, a couple hours before he died, was “Aloha Oe” which is a good-bye song in Hawaiian. I know he heard the song as he rode on the wave of departure from this Earth. Reading Lark’s many posts about the positive effects of music on those with dementia or brain injuries is so timely as I am still reeling from the positiveness of Diane Sawyer’s 20/20 program on ABC that was broadcast earlier this week. Her story of Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly was inspirational on so many levels. Music had, and continues to have, an AMAZING healing effect on Congresswomen Giffords recovery from that horrific gun shot injury on January 8th, 2011.
A senior citizen receives mail that promises her the opportunity to receive a $10,000 Sweepstakes check but first she has to send the organization a $25 check or she is told to wire money in order to receive the proffered $10K. This same lonely person receives CONSTANT phone calls in which many demands are placed upon her to send money or they will come to her residence and cause her bodily harm.
It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your loved one to hang up when she receives one of these calls. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to convince her that responding to the mail and/or the phone calls will not net her any positive financial results. She always responds, and because she’s still able to mail a check or drive to Western Union and wire money to these nefarious people, she keeps doing so and finds herself in a heap of financial trouble.
Let’s consider the following mail fraud scenario: at a long-term care (LTC) facility, the staff, along with the resident’s family members, changed the resident’s phone number numerous times and rerouted her mail to go elsewhere, but because of the persistence and trickery of these unscrupulous people, they always managed to get through the filters set up to eradicate them. This particular resident’s apartment was finally searched by staff, at the suggestion of local law enforcement and with the permission of the resident, and what they found would make your blood boil. This resident had shoe boxes full of “Sweepstakes” documents, and once the apartment had been cleaned out, over a dozen large garbage bags filled with documents had been removed. Once this resident responded to these criminals by sending money, they had a victim upon which they could rely.
I’m not going to address the issue of identity theft per se which is another prevalent type of fraud exacted upon elderly adults. Let’s concentrate on mail fraud which can certainly lead to identity theft. With mail fraud, which eventually can lead to “phone fraud,” the victim in question is oftentimes isolated, lonely, and as most senior citizens will tell you, is worried about having enough money to get her through her later years. The promise of a $10,000, or higher, windfall is just too good to resist. Let’s be honest with ourselves – we can’t resist this type of temptation either. If you’ve ever purchased a lottery ticket, and I’ve purchased many, you hope beyond all reason that this time the lottery ticket will have the winning numbers, because after all – somebody has to win! When you’re a senior citizen and money is tight, why not hope beyond all hope that the $10K Sweepstakes could be real, as unlikely as that may seem to us?
So how does one put safeguards in place to ward off these types of criminals?
If you live close enough to your elderly loved one, have a look-see around their living space. Do you see any piles of envelopes that look suspiciously like one of these mail fraud schemes? When my father lived in a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility, as he left the room to use the bathroom and/or to take a nap, I did some Irene-sized investigative work. I didn’t stop at simply looking at what was on top of his desk, I rummaged through the drawers. I looked at his checkbook register for suspicious outgoing checks (there were a few.) I tried to discern if there were any Sweepstakes letters from repeat offenders who thanked him for his previous money submission and asking for more – again, there were a few. I know that this investigative activity reeks of privacy invasion but if that meant protecting my very generous father who was in the early stages of dementia – I was willing to do so. And I didn’t stop there. I cleared his desk of all but one or two Sweepstakes envelopes so he wouldn’t notice that absolutely everything was gone, and I stuffed them in my backpack and took them home to shred. If you don’t live close enough to visit on an ongoing basis and suspect that your parent who lives in a long-term care facility is succumbing to this type of mail fraud, call a staff department head and ask him/her to have a look at what is visible on top of your loved one’s desk/coffee table. You shouldn’t ask staff members to open drawers – that’s inappropriate and is actually against most facilities’ resident privacy policies. Once you are aware of a concerning outcome, then you can take steps to provide personal intervention on your loved one’s behalf. A phone call to the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office located near your loved one will initiate a complaint and that office will attempt to resolve this matter on behalf of the resident – your family member.
Phone fraud harassment – one step closer to elder abuse.
I became aware of a woman who received numerous calls a week from these scammers, threatening her with bodily harm if she didn’t wire the requested funds. These criminals have no conscience whatsoever so they aren’t shy about yelling at the elderly victim; making fun of them when they cry on the phone because they’re afraid of the threats; calling the elderly person a loser and that they’ll never have enough money to carry them through the remainder of their pitiful lives. As cumbersome as it may be, I strongly suggest you have your loved one’s phone number changed. Only those who need to have the number: family, close friends, medical personnel, and facility administration, should be given the new number. You may have to do this several times before the stream of fraudster phone calls come to an end.
Resources on which you can rely.
The AARP website has links to resources that are very informational regarding elder fraud. Once you access their website you can link to the chapter that is active in your local area and you’ll find contact numbers for Fraud Fighter reporting. Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office (Washington State website linked here) is very helpful. Not only can you report cases of fraud through their website, you will also find a list of scams currently making the rounds. Let’s not forget the U.S. Postal Service as well. They have a postal inspection division that walks you through the steps of preventing and/or eliminating mail fraud. I think once you start typing elder fraud into an internet search engine, you’ll find numerous links, such as The Elder Fraud Project, that will prove helpful.
Whatever you do – don’t sit idle and ignore the signs of mail fraud. I can guarantee you that the scammers trying to acquire as much of your loved one’s money as possible are not idle – they’re hard at work to enrich themselves at your loved one’s financial expense.
The heading from an Associated Press story by Matt Sedensky, “Who’s going to take care of our aging population?” should wake ALL of us up; not just us Baby Boomers, but ALL of us because at this stage of our world’s existence, no one has created a magic elixir that cures old age and dying.
Talk to anybody who is in med school, or considering med school, ask them what specialty they would like to focus on and you’ll hear: orthopedics, pediatrics, heart disease, cancer treatment – all worthy fields but I would venture to guess that not one of whom you ask that question has said, Geriatrics or Senior Health. “What about geriatrics?” I ask them. “We’re living longer so you’ll ALWAYS have a job taking care of a civilization that’s fighting to stay alive as long as it can!” They don’t buy it, especially since Geriatricians are one of the lowest paid medical specialties amongst the medical community.
Ugh! Who wants to deal with the wrinkly, saggy, hard-of-hearing, loud complaining geezers among us? Not very many according to the linked article above. According to Mr. Sedensky’s research, there is roughly one Geriatrician for every 2,600 people 75 and older. No wonder people can’t find a doctor who specializes in Senior Health! I facilitate an Alzheimer’s Caregiver support group in my town wherein these family members expound on their frustrating efforts to locate a doctor who: a) will spend the time needed to have a productive appointment with their aging parent; b) who knows enough about elder health issues to suggest a treatment that will provide quality of life for the patient; and c) who has a medical staff that is sufficiently trained to interact with their elderly patients. Unfortunately, the General Practitioner or Internist quite frequently provide the same treatment, and the same method of communicating, to their elderly patients – even those with Alzheimer’s or other dementia – as they do their patients in their 20’s thru 70’s. That just won’t cut it.
Older patients have more complex conditions – and more of them. If a medical professional isn’t accurately trained, he or she might discount an elderly patient’s symptoms as those expected during the normal aging process and therefore offer no effective treatment. “What can you expect at your age Mrs. Jones? Be glad that you’ve lived this long!” I know – that sounds really callous – but I dare say too many elderly patients are treated dismissively, and as a result their quality of life decreases greatly.
Think about it my fellow Baby Boomers. Are you willing to be dismissed just because your doctor doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing? I know that all of us have been to doctors who we’ve “fired” because of their lack of understanding and/or their failure to provide proactive treatment. The vulnerable adults among us might not realize that they have choices. They might not feel confident enough to challenge the highly educated medical professional to whom they have entrusted their lives. Who loses in that equation? We all do. If our aging relatives don’t have appropriate medical care options at this time in their lives, why do we think that there will suddenly be an influx of Geriatricians to treat us when we’re their age?
Maybe this is a lost cause for us but it doesn’t have to be that way for those coming up in the aging ranks behind us. What are your thoughts about this glut of Senior Health professionals? How can we hope to live in a world where quality of life – something we value greatly – is an unreachable, yet much desired goal?
I was touched by the following quote that appeared on Lark Kirkwood’s Elder Advocates site a few years ago:
Do all the good that you can, in all the places you can, in all the ways that you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, for as long as you can. – John Wesley
I want to add the following sentiment which has become a sort of mantra for the way I conduct myself:
We can begin by doing small things at the local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbors. That is how change takes place in living systems – not from above – but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously. – Grace Lee Boggs
I’m so encouraged by the different types of advocacy that I’ve witnessed across this nation. Some advocate for the elderly, some the disenfranchised or marginalized, others advocate for the humane treatment of animals. Whichever the focus – it’s all about advocacy. The good news is that whether a person lives in Redmond, Washington, like myself, or Washington, DC – we are all making a difference in each of our small corners of the Universe. Imagine if everyone did just that.
Instead of having the mindset that the only things worth doing are those which are grandiose and news worthy – and therefore believing that you have nothing to offer – do what you can, with what you have, and your impact will be grand. Many small, positive actions add up to great advances in the betterment of our world.
Regardless of your age, you can make a difference in the lives of others. If you’re looking for something to do, consider helping an elder or two. Let’s face it, unless death comes early for us, we’re all going to enter the elder category at some point in the future. You may someday benefit from someone else’s tender loving respect and care.
An epidemic has taken hold of this Nation. Adults 70 years or older are being infantalized. Adult children have decided that their parents can’t do anything without their guidance. Service employees, e.g. restaurants, retail store clerks and the like, feel compelled to talk down to their Senior customers. Caregivers in long-term care (LTC) facilities further degrade the residents with baby talk. These residents downsized their living space; don’t downsize who they are by treating them as anything other than who they are: intelligent adults.
Only you can put an end to this epidemic. If it is not eradicated by the time you reach the Senior Citizen age, you too will be subjected to its horrors.
Mom moves into your house because of a financial or medical reason, and suddenly Mom has no say in what goes on in her life. Everywhere she turns, her son and daughter-in-law are bossing her around in the guise of trying to do what is best for her. Mom wants to stay up late reading or watching TV and she’s told she should go to bed. Mom wants to do this activity, or that activity with friends outside of the home and she’s told not to leave the house because the son and daughter-in-law want to make sure she doesn’t get into any trouble.
Your Mom raised you and somehow you turned out o.k. She must have been a good parent, teacher, guidance counselor, child supporter, you name it. Just because she is living under your roof doesn’t mean she’s lost her right to have a say in matters that go on in the household. Ask her opinion from time to time. Let her somehow contribute to the functioning of the household, e.g. day-to-day participation in household functions, helping you with decisions you’re making about your own lives. Doing so will restore her pride and make her feel less superfluous. It’s quite o.k. to be concerned about her well-being – you should be – but you can do so without suffocating her.
Why is it that wait-staff, retail sales clerks and the like feel an immediate need to speak super loudly to a Senior citizen customer? In my work with the elderly, I made this very mistake by talking loudly to a LTC resident I had just met. She finally interrupted me, put her hand on my knee and said, “Irene, I’m old; not deaf. Please stop yelling at me.” So simply lower your voice and don’t call her a pet name such as “Sweetie,” “Hon,” etc. I’ll never forget my mother’s phone call to me many years ago when she was barely over 70 years old. She went to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles to renew her driver’s license. After filling out the paperwork and getting her photo taken, it was time for her to leave with her newly issued license. The DMV clerk then said quite loudly, “Now Sweetie – before you leave, make sure that you have everything with you that you came with.” My mother called me that evening, both angered and in tears, bristling at the way in which she was treated. In my mother’s eyes, the DMV clerk downsized her intelligence and abilities and that thoughtless act forever changed my mother as a result. Please treat your Senior consumers with respect and with dignity. They know they are older than you are – you don’t have to remind them of that fact with your ill-placed attitudes and gestures.
When I was 58 years old, a couple years ago, I picked up some items at my local grocery store and used the self-checkout counter to purchase my groceries. As I was leaving the store, the retail clerk said, “Thanks Dear!” A male customer who was older than me also went through the self-checkout at the same time but that retail clerk didn’t say a cutesy name to him! Oh Boy – she didn’t know what she had just started. I didn’t make a scene. I left the store, wrote a letter to the manager and included this blog entry/article with a suggestion that he update his store training to include my suggestions about how to treat Senior Citizens. He wrote me back to thank me and stated that he planned to provide updated sensitivity training to his staff. BRAVO!
Professional LTC caregivers.
Oh boy – I see this a lot. Caregivers who, God bless them, have a job that not many of us would willingly perform – especially at the low hourly wage at which they are paid. I admire you and I respect you. You’re a better person than I because I don’t have what it takes to do what you do. But please address your patients/residents by their given names. I would even go so far as to suggest that you call them by their surname until they give you permission to use their first name. “Good morning Mrs. Smith. It’s so good to see you today!” That’s a far more respectful greeting than the following: “Good morning Sweetie Pie. Let’s get you ready for breakfast, shall we Hon?” YUCK! God help the person who addresses me that way when I reach my Senior years. I’m a friendly person at heart, but I too would bristle at any condescending treatment directed towards me. (And considering how I reacted to the cutesy name directed at me in the supermarket a few years ago (above) I may not be quite as civil in my later years.)
BOTTOM LINE FOR EVERYONE CONCERNED. These Senior Citizens with whom you have contact survived the Great Depression and at least one World War. Surely they have the ability, and the right, to be treated with respect and given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making their own personal decisions. Don’t take away their ability prematurely. Eventually they may not have the ability to function independently, but it doesn’t do them any good for you to hasten the time in which that may happen.