Let’s reconsider how we care for aging loved ones”
True story: An executive makes a phone call to check on mom prior to attending an important meeting. There is no answer. After repeated calls, there is still no answer. Immediately assuming there must be an emergency, the executive leaves the meeting place and arrives home to learn that mom had just removed her hearing aid!
Sound familiar? You bet it does.
In the early 1990s, my family members and I faced the dilemma of trying to maintain professional careers, care for our immediate families, and meet the increasing needs of our elderly aunts who both required regular personal care assistance as well as emotional and financial support. It was challenging and often exhausting. We were ill-equipped.
Today, thankfully, many options are available to aging parents and their adult children. Private sector in-home care services and innovative projects in faith communities are making an enormous difference to individual families who are trying to “figure it out.”
However, while there are now more resources available, I believe that there is still a great need to adjust our thinking about aging.
Aging is not a punishment for living; it is evidence that we have lived. It is another — often extraordinary — time in the life of our parents and loved ones. That said, I don’t dismiss the overwhelming challenges of caring for an older person. Based on three decades of personal experiences in caring for older family members, one conclusion is obvious. It will often seem that your best is just not good enough and you will feel guilty.
Creative ideas needed
There are many statistics and reports about aging and elder care and its impact on the workplace, social organizations, the nation’s financial and healthcare resources, and the family. However, a new conversation is now underway. The baby boomer generation is demanding answers to questions about healthy aging, what being older really means in lifestyle changes, and new care alternatives.
This country has no shortage of creative and energetic problem solvers who will can find solutions to the challenges of getting older. Some physicians are reviving the old practice of making “house calls” to their patients. Seniors are devising communal living arrangements to meet their mutual physical, financial and social needs. One more brief example:
Take a look at the aisles of the local grocery store. Seniors can select personal care products in multi-color packages with a wide assortment of choices in design, function and size.
Baby boomers have always wanted choices. The traditional patterns and methods of caring for them as they age will not be acceptable. Consider all the options and resources that are available in 2012 that did not exist 20 years ago. Those options and resources are going to have to multiple significantly again within the next 10 years.
As we develop new options and resources for the care of the aging, let’s remember to make the most important choice – the choice to celebrate and respect life in its final stage.
Don’t you love unexpected surprises? The following is a nice story about that very thing. Several weeks ago, one of the ladies in the office brought me a crocheted bed spread made by her grandmother and said..”it will go so much nicer in your home than mine. I hate to just leave it in this box!”
Since my home was built in 1897, she certainly had a point. It is a beautifully done ivory colored bedspread in perfect condition.
The surprise comes in a marketing moment when we were putting together materials and gifts for a lunch and learn opportunity at one of the local hospitals for their social workers and case managers. The subject of course was our company, Family Staffing Solutions. We decided to use the antique crocheted bedspread as the tablecloth for our display area. It was carefully placed on top of the dark purple cloth we routinely use. The first surprise was that it looked incredibly great and was a perfect fit. All of our marketing materials including boxed lunches were place appropriately for display and for the interest of those attending our event.
Then came the second surprise. While we had anticipated a natural connection of the vintage nature of the bedspread to the demographic market of our client, female over age 85 and the services we provide, we had no idea that those attending our luncheon would spend most of the hour simply touching the cloth, studying the intricate handwork and relating every thing we said to their own older family members or patients. What a nice surprise and marketing success.
The next surprise came several days later while meeting a new friend for lunch in a small town near Nashville. She brought with her a copy of a book of poetry she had written and there on the cover was a most lovely photograph of an antique table with a lace cloth with these words …”A cup of words spills over, stains the tablecloth. Is the cup too small, or the tablecloth too important? ”
But wait there is even more to this story of happy coincidences! On the back cover we found a photo in memory of two older ladies sitting at a table and the words: “Between any two mothers are sufficient truths for a lifetime, but who listens? ”
Well, to Karen who shared her grandmother’s crocheted bedspread with us and to Veita Jo for sharing the tender photos that complete our story, we are listening and so are many adult children who find such joy in remembering our past and our parents but who fight back the tears that those precious memories bring to our eyes and our hearts. From my heart to yours…have a wonderful day!
Murfreesboro Rotary President Becci Bookner ended a successful year with fifteen new members, water projects in Africa as well as here in Rutherford County, numerous fund raisers that benefit local charitable organizations, and other successes…
In fact, when District Governor Larry Boyd installed the new Murfreesboro president and board, he announced that Becci will become an assistant governor to work with Rutherford County’s four Rotary Clubs.
(Photo: Former educator, founder of a Family Staffing Solutions–an elder service firm–and community leader Becci Bookner gets a short break before accepting new responsibilities in leadership with the Rotary District.)