Friday, November 29, 2019

Look, Listen, Touch When Visiting Loved Ones

Moving "up the ladder" on the age chain.
As we age so do our relatives and family members. 

We transit through the "joining together " and "moving apart" that comes with and through the circle, the cycle of life.

Unless there's a serious illness or other disrupter, we hardly notice the days turning into weeks, month and years except to mark the seasons and the occasions for gathering, sharing and often celebrating

Then comes the day, the week, the month and the year of making decisions turning life inside out when we face the closest generational change when we notice our cousins, with whom we grew up or aged together, experiencing health changes and looking so different in the pictures we take -- more like our Aunts and Uncles.

Early Onset Dementia.  It arrives like a thief in the night, under the cover of darkness -- light seeming to be drawn slowly as through a pin prick and leaving behind a developing and ever growing darkness.

I didn't "grow up" with my cousin who's now in the memory care wing of an Assisted Living facility. I don't know her except through select memories.

Seeing change doesn't require being close to someone -- it's visible when it's noticeable and recognizable when you've been through it.

We often measure life by goals reached and achievements made -- if we're fortunate -- or by overcoming challenges, obstacles, set backs and life crises. 

If they're younger, say not into their fifties, it's a "life challenge"; not welcomed or wanted but we see mostly hurdles to jump, times to get through and progress to make towards.... "that" time...when we'll "be there"...but not now, not here...later...maybe...

Next comes the "between time'. We're between the front and the second row at funerals; not having babies usually and struggling with teens and early "adulthood" in our offspring or family additions. 

Suddenly...we find ourselves having "achieved" some of our life's goals of having a family and all it entails and now we're....what....still moving in the direction of the unknown, the unexpected and sometimes the unwanted.

LOOK, LISTEN, TOUCH WHEN VISITING A LOVED ONE IN A FACILITY... we continue to need recognition as a valued individual person, not just someone to "visit", to "spend time with". 

You go. They stay. They wait. So much time to think, to consider, to wonder but not to dream, to really "dream" as when we grow old -- older---we've made it or not, we've had it or not, we've known it or not -- according to the worldview on aging.

Few see the real human being who is aging. They see what they're told to believe, what they're supposed to know and what they should do and how it should be done.

For many it's an "obligation" -- something to work into "our schedule. For some they're the "only ones" in the area and those "outside" call occassionally but find "communication" difficult so they tend to make those calls less and less frequently.

Then there are those who "passed" on really staying connected and aware and certainly didn't find time let alone any financial ability to "help", even when grave illness and severe challenges created severe financial challenges.

These are the ones who usually "rise up" when someone, who they see as "concerned", connects with them to "complain about" or somehow find fault with the primary family/friends who make time, create ways and include the Senior in their lives.

It's always so easy to look at something from a distance and find fault when you want there to be fault either because of "self guilt" of many years of "neglect" or walking away because this was one thing they didn't have to "deal with" in life.

We experienced this "disconnect" and "accusations". Strange how even the one son who could have seen more did not consider how his grandmother was "aging". He who is known for being so "informed" and "capable" did not apply his skillsets to investigate and understand. But then, few do.

If you call, connect with, or in any way "enter into" or "remain" a part of a loved one's being in a Long Term Care Facility, you need to recognize what you see is not what they're getting on a daily basis and there are many challenges those of us who are frequent visitors see with the loved one and other residents.

Step out of your comfort zone for you too are moving in the same direction -- towards needing caregiving. Life is a circle, you enter dependent, become independent and often return to one or more levels of "dependency".

Look, listen, touch and most importantly do not take anything for granted. That "bandage" may be concealing a very serious problem. Those Dr recommended "compression" socks may hide bruises or worse.

Be Aware. Do more than accept what you're told.

And, take pictures. Make notes. Keep records.

Do not be afraid to report what you see, what you hear and what you smell including calling the DHSS Hotline to report the facility.

You are the gatekeeper of the present and the future for as the tree of life grows and develops it bends and breaks with the pressures it endures.