Growing up, I frequented nursing homes to visit with the elderly, share stories, play music, and provide a comforting presence, but I hadn’t done it in years. One of my family members works with the elderly who are inching toward the end of life.
I recently visited family, and the opportunity arose to visit a home care facility for the elderly who have an estimated six months left to live.
Lesson 1: Don’t be too busy.
Someone asked two patients (Phillip & Catherine) when is the last time your children visited you. Phillip couldn’t respond wholly because he is nearing the end with a sorrowful case of dementia, but the caretaker at the facility confirmed Phillip’s son hadn’t come to visit in a long time.
When Catherine, who is more lucid than Phillip, was posed the question, she mentioned how her daughter Julie was too busy cooking and keeping up the house to visit with her.
We are all busy; it’s no longer a valid excuse — especially for the people we love. We will never run out of things to do on earth, and we will never run out of responsibilities. But the one sure thing we will run out of is time; time with our families and loved ones, and time on this earth.
Don’t be too busy for those you care about. And don’t be too busy to repair broken relationships before it’s too late.
Lesson 2: Be patient.
One of the patients, Phillip, was far along with his case of dementia. Many of his sentences were broken ramblings, but I took the time to try and piece them together to try and make sense of what he was saying.
People frequently forget that the elderly may move slower, talk slower, require more attention, and forget information. Hanging around the elderly reminded me how salient it is to be patient — with everyone, including myself.
Lesson 3: We start as babies and end as babies.
I ended up reading a Dr. Suess book to a patient named Catherine, and she enjoyed the read quite so. It was a reminder of how we can end up liking the same things we did when we were younger.
When we are babies, we need others to care for us more cautiously, and as we inch closer to the “elderly” numbers, many start to regress to our original need for others to care for us.
It was a refreshing reminder of how the cycle of life works. We start as babies, and we end as babies. We start off helpless, and we can end up helpless as well.
Lesson 4: It’s about people at the end of life, not work.
We often hear this, but do we really hear these words? It’s about people as we age. It’s not about achievements, how busy our schedules are, how much money we acquire, or how good we look as we age. It’s about the relationships we took time to cultivate into beautiful vessels of life, enrichment, memories, and soulful sweet nothings.
How much of your life is spent investing in people versus things?
Lesson 5: Don’t forget the elderly.
In many cultures outside America, the elderly hold respect from all members of society. The elderly are cared for, loved, respected, and honored. Something I’ve noticed in America is many of the elderly are taken advantage of and forgotten by society and their families. The world becomes too busy to pay attention to the older generations; instead, society focuses on the younger generations — the future — when the elderly can still provide much value and insight to help build a better and brighter future.
Lack of Quality Care for the Elderly
Unfortunately, the quality of care you receive as you age can depend on the amount of money you have in the bank if you don’t have direct family to care for you.
I’ve seen clean nursing homes, and I’ve seen dirty nursing homes. When you walk into some nursing homes, you will smell the urine on the patients and see dead bugs scattered on the floors by the window sills. But then you have other nursing homes where the facility is spotless and presents a white-glove aurora.
Your resources determine your care or lack of care as an older individual. It’s troubling, but this is the way American society is set up for now.
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Destiny S. Harris is a writer, poet, entrepreneur, teacher, and techie who offers free books daily on amazon. Destiny obtained three degrees in political science, psychology, and women’s studies. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or @ destinyh.com