A few days ago I visited a Senior Center, and met a lovely lady name Irene. Irene, was lively and vibrant and within minutes of introducing herself, she told me her age – 83 years old – but not “OLD,” at least that’s not how she sees herself, she said. Irene, lovely and active and involved in community volunteering, is like most of us in this regard – we see aging in others, not ourselves. Have you ever ran into a High School classmate and walked away thinking, “She looks OLD!” Never thinking for a second that said former classmate is having the same thought?
When we talk to seniors about how our home care services could benefit them, how it promotes the lifestyle they would like to continue – even after the many challenges of aging develops – we usually get an agreeable response; but ever so often, the response is, “I’m getting older, but I’m not THAT old, that I need a caregiver!” Since contact with us is usually initiated by the senior person, or a concerned family member – I know this response is due, at least in part, to the perspective so many of us have – we are not AS old, AS in need, AS…..
I believe that it is our human nature to see ourselves in a rosier light. This tendency protects us from life’s discouragements most of time. If I am not as bad off as the people around me, then perhaps I could, ‘cross that bridge,’ ‘climb that ladder,’ ‘meet that challenge.’ Seeing life better than it really is, helps us survive the moments when life is full of challenges; it diminishes our problems and increases our hope and abilities – and isn’t that what optimism really is anyway?
I would present to you however, that optimism should not factor into our self-assessment as we decide on when the right time would be to get help in our senior years. The sooner the better. It really could be the decision that lengthen our days or shorten our lives.
We had a beautiful senior client a few years ago, who lived in an Independent facility. She hired us to provide her companionship and a driver, as driving was no longer an option, and she dined out often during the week. As we worked with her however, we noticed the need for someone to be there on a more frequent basis, as she was forgetting personal hygiene, missing meals and were having more days where she did not remember to take her medication.
We shared our caregiver’s observations with her son, but he was reluctant to change the arrangement, as Mom did not believe that she needed as much help as the older people she saw in her building. The Independent facility insisted that he hired full-time caregiving after a midnight incident in the lobby of her building; but the decision was difficult to make, as our client saw the concerns of others as, over-reacting, and full-time help as admitting she was old.
We continued to share our observations on the days we were there, with her son. But even as our concerns for her safety increased, she remained adamantly opposed to additional help. Our client finally relented after our caregiver arrived one morning and had to have the maintenance crew unlock our client’s apartment door, as she was not responding to the customary knock. She had fallen during the night and broken her hip, since she did not remember to wear her alert, she could only lay on the floor hoping that someone would come along and hear her cry for help.
Benjamin Franklin said that, ‘life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” But do we have to? … Get wise too late that is?