By Amelia Newman
We used his old blue camper van for a long time after he passed. I remember when my dad took our grandpa in to live with us. With my grandpa’s failing health, my dad flew to Florida to pick him up and bring him to our backwoods place. We gave him a bedroom and had a newer, bigger shower installed. I was pretty young at the time, so I didn’t understand much of what was going on with his health and slower lifestyle. But I remember feeling very concerned as a young child when I noticed such things as drops of blood on his bed blanket. My dad would help him change and bathe, which was no easy task. I am told that I would sit on his lap and have big intellectual conversations with him; I just wish that I could remember those conversations. I do remember however, how Grandpa would have my brother go and fetch his cigars for him, and it makes me smile as I can faintly see the smoke gently rolling off one of his cigars as he sat on our porch.
I am grateful that my siblings and I were able to spend some of my grandpa’s last days with him, because now that is all we have. But, in-home elderly care is no shiny job, and in many ways can be similar to taking care of another child. Many employees do this all-consuming job for a parent in addition to holding their full-time job, yet few feel encouraged by it. Our elderly loved one feels restless because of being cooped up after all their thriving life experiences. Sometimes they are stuck in one of their own time eras, talking for hours on end, day after day about it. Sometimes they are extremely irritable or discontent because of their ailments. More often than not, the daily grind of elderly care leaves an employee wishing they could either get a cruise away from it all, or send their parent away on one.
As you care for your parent or elderly relative, remember that it will not last forever. Remember that one day you will be in their shoes too. Remember that just as you are frustrated, they are frustrated with themselves too. If they are overly cranky, stand up and do not let them get the better of you with their demands. Lay down some rules, so to say, because it’s your house now. Give yourself a break from them now and then too; this is vital. Getting your elderly involved in community groups and activities is good for both them and for you.
It’s really quite beautiful how life goes on through the passing of generations. In many cultures, such as African tribes, stories and values are passed on from the elderly to the younger. So hold on to the stories of your parents, grandparents, and great aunts. Write them down or record them if you can. This is an ancient practice and a valuable one. And last but not least, if there is any enjoyment to be had with your loved one, laugh a little!