We lost a dear client last week that had been with EO over 7 years. Very sweet lady from Katybow Oklahoma who was in the Navy as a nurse and after the war went on to become a nurse at the Nashville VA Hospital.
Her husband Buster died 4 years ago. They both got dementia about the same time and were not able to tend each other in old age as perhaps they had planned. They had no children. Their family was their church, neighbors and their dogs. Good decent people. They loved each other, served their community in a quite not showy way and were kind.
We are planning her service now and trying to piece together her life. I never knew her or Buster before they got dementia. The clergy at the church they attended have changed since they last attended so they dont know Bessie. And they have outlived most of their friends and peers.
I am now in the process of writing her obituary, looking for clues in her things. A Masters degree from Vanderbilt in 1955, a marriage certificate, photos of various dogs they had over their marriage. A large painting of a Collie that hangs over her bed. Puzzle pieces, clues.
What I would like to write for the obituary is this, “Bessie woke up each morning optimistic about the day. Happy. She loved her husband and her pets deeply. The caregivers of the facility she lived in would often seat her by the more agitated people because she would calm them with her gentle demeanor, sometimes singing the hymn “Jesus Loves Me” changing the words to “Jesus Loves You”. Most importantly she lived a quiet life of kindness and caring for others.
She taught me a lot about how to be in the world.
You have seen your parents over the holidays and are now back home thinking about how fragile they seemed and how one bad fall or illness could make the whole house of cards come down.
Here are some ideas for you on how to be plugged in better to their day to day lives even from a distance.
Accompany them to the doctor, or if thats not possible talk to the doctor or better yet the nurse on the phone and explain your concerns.
Make sure your parents have included you on their HIPPA forms so that you are allowed to talk to their doctor.
Make sure they have an Advanced Directive and that you have a copy.
Know where their important papers are stored. Older people often store these things in a safety deposit box at the bank that nobody knows about or has a key to.
Make contact with their friends. Make sure they have your phone number. Same for neighbors.
If your older family members are in a facility, make contact with staff that cares them.
Call their church and talk to church secretary and minister, make sure they know whats going on with your parents. And have your contact information.
➢ Meet with a geriatric care manager http://www.caremanager.org/ in the area.
Having had several friends in my age group die unexpectedly in last 6 weeks, one of cancer and the other of a heart attack. I started thinking about how many losses older people experience. By the time one reaches the age 65, the list of losses usually is longer than the list of gains. And how people cope with loss tends to be an indicator of successful aging.
How does one cope though with loss after loss after loss? Not only death of loved ones but also loss of health, loss of home, loss of driving, loss of being able to manage ones finances….the loss list goes on and on as we age.
In my twelve years as a care manager I have had clients who rolled with the losses and some who became so debilitated that they could no longer function.
A strong spiritual base seems to help but not always.
Seems like a common thread is a sense of optimism that there are precious moments left to live.
Its the little things that start to matter…the coffee being hot, the soft blanket, a simple hello and a smile from a stranger. Looking for the good in people and in life…not the negative.
I had a client who lived to be 89 who I worked with for last nine years of his life, he always wore a bow tie and shined his shoes…whenever Id ask how he was he’d always say smiling, , “I am great because any day above ground is a good day.”
And so it is…..