Friday, 24 February 2012

Small room but oh what a magnificent huge miracle!

Took some time today to go peek in on my Elizabeth for she has been on my mind since the move day. I had no idea what to expect, but I should know by now that expectations are useless...especially negative ones. Calling out Liz's name while knocking on her door lets her know it's not a stranger approaching. Her door was opened slightly so I did my little high pitched Carol Burnett call ''Helloooooo'' which rest assured it could only be me. Elizabeth's grin was twice the size of her room!! Her familiar pressed dull grey hair was so fluffy and shiny, you'd think she had her own stylist! ''I didn't know you were coming today. How did you know I needed water??'', she exclaims, as I place 4 water bottles on her little morning table. While I loosen the tabs saving her arthritic bones work, she comes over with her arms outstretched and shares how so happy she is that I didn't forget her. If they only knew that spirits such as hers are unforgettable. I bought her a toothbrush, a scoop for her Epsom salts, an extension cord to hook up her cable,and a white rose that oddly enough matched her fluffy doo. We sat on her little grey love seat while she excitedly shared that she has been down to the dining lounge to eat all 3 meals of the day, the nurse gives her meds at breakfast and dinner, a bath is morning routine, and she drank enough milk to make up for the years it wasn't provided!!!!! Liz continues on about the care she is given, and is now a little worried about getting fat with her tummy full all day. I reassure her that fat is good, and we laugh. We looked in boxes for her winter boots which were now placed behind her door....just in case she finds energy to head outside!! What a remarkable transition for Liz! We can sure learn a great deal from folk who survived the depression, war and poverty, the greatest lesson for me was that Elizabeth's little space was perfect if love, food, support and attention reside within.....and of course, milk! Driving back home didn't compare to driving in. Elizabeth was happy, and even though the other lady at her lunch table kept putting her feet in Liz's space, Elizabeth reassured me that as of tomorrow, that will not be the case. ''I will keep my feet 'strong on floor' and she better watch out!!! That 'a girl, my German friend, that 'a girl!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Happiness in small places

Watching Elizabeth decide what little to take with her to her new little space was emotionally disruptive to both of us. She had already moved from her beloved home into a Retirement Community, and now she needed to be transported to an assisted floor that provides more acute care. As I negotiated the few items left to her name,it became obvious that her resistance reflected the fight to hold tight to her sense of autonomy and Independence. I promised that I would move everything over and we'd decide from there what might need removing if her safety was compromised. This new space was smaller than assumed and eventually she stoically relinquished her 2 corner cabinets that encased a handful of German treasures to make room for her breakfast table and 4 chairs...chairs that would continue to sit empty but held promise for perhaps a friendship or two. She had 5 clocks that I put up for her and wherever she sat in this tiny alcove, all could be seen and heard. There were hand sewn pillows that if stacked, would touch the ceiling, but they were non-negotiable.. She no longer had a kitchenette but insisted all utensils come with her. I convinced her that the fake flowers would only collect dust and irritate her breathing to which she quite readily agreed. Her favourite wooven door carpets could no longer be justified, the broken stemware should probably be discarded, yet the dozen or more crocheted doylies were keepsakes from countless friends that would be disappointed if Elizabeth thought so little to toss them after so much work and love shaped them.There were more silk framed art pieces and oils than walls, but the ''galleria look''offered an undisputed coziness. Her many prayer books offered endless faith, her five- too -many lamps enough light to reassure her safety, and blankets to warm her soul. The balcony will offer Elizabeth a bit more space, an outdoor retreat and an avenue that will help the time pass more quickly. Before our 7 hour day was finished and everything in place, I photographed Liz in her new room, placed a straw hat near her balcony entrance, put the prettiest silk cream curtains up to compliment her dinette set, and found a couple muffins, cookies and juice to nourish her loneliness. Liz promised to lock the door behind me, and as our brief relationship came to an end, I found myself wondering how many Elizabeths will press my heart strings to the max, and if I might be so lucky to be one of those friends she awaits at her kitchen table.....

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Hanging on to everything.....

Dear Elizabeth, at 89, is so reluctant to throw anything out, no matter the condition. This is another valuable bit of information I am learning about our older seniors. Reassuring her that we can manage to take everything to the new unit brought her great relief, no matter the worth that I may place on her belongings. When I arrived, Liz was lying on her bed and in need of a I thought. Her bedroom was the next room to pack up, so I wrapped candles that had very little life yet, broken baskets and plastic flowers, while Liz conversed with me about her fears, the facility food, old friends that have passed and her devoted husband Ted. We went to see her new unit again as she needed reassurance that this new space would accommodate her life's belongings. I can imagine that at one time, this woman was fearless, strong and self assured. Today, she believes many have taken advantage of her now that she is old, and she strongly wants it reinforced that she may be old but never stupid. While standing in the elevator, she grabs for my hand which is always interlocked with hers on our walks, and asks,'' Do you have someone and someplace to go when you get old? Never come to these places. Yes, you must never come to these places.'' She wasn't speaking about this place in particular, but anyplace where you feel alone... with so much time to realize how alone you are. As my time was ending, I wrapped one last piece of Liz's past life, a book marker shaped in a cross she had given to her Ted with the inscription - to my Ted, I love you.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Feb.10 New client...but only for a moment.

Today I had the profound pleasure of meeting a darling warm woman of 89!'' Liz # 1'' as she wants to be called, greeted me with open and trusting arms, and a smile that honoured my existence. Liz will be relocating to a unit that provides more assisted care in administering her meds. Her new suite has the largest balcony I have ever seen, contrary to her recent room that has but a window or two for viewing. My excitement while describing her outdoor space brought a wide childlike grin to Liz's face, and she knew immediately which chair would fit there! We sat and discussed which items she absolutely had to have, and other than noting her bed set and couch, her little stereo, a few tables and a light or two, she wanted for very little. On her desk sat a photo of her and her husband Ted, who she described as the most beautiful human she has ever known. Liz was so stately and beautiful in her lace wedding gown, that simple innocent beauty still gracing her face. How do I address business when a listening ear is all she asks for? How can I not think of my mom and that someday she will want for a moment of someone's time, and so grateful to get even a second? Denying myself a glimpse into the life of such a old soul seems impossible to do, and certainly not what I want to do. My dearest friends are over 80, and to see them as business clients would be foreign to me. So while Liz shared many memories, we organized our time together and decided where the 'little she had' would go. Our next visit, I will take Liz to her new suite, which lies empty and cleaned, and we can decide where she wants to place her belongings. We will methodically go closet to drawer to cabinet and suggest ways to diminish her treasures until she is satisfied. All she asks is that white sheer curtains be placed over the large window, and her rocker and little wooden chair be for the porched balcony. I think I can manage that....and a million more little things that will hopefully make her last bit of home her happiest. What an honour to be part of her life. I hope I measure up....

Keepers of the Gate

In the last 4 weeks I have toured several Retirement Communities while educating myself to the services  available to those seniors thinking of retiring from their family homes. To speak of the ''bells and whistles'' that accommodate these facilities, the newest and most trendy, to the communities that have sheltered the older population for decades, seems irrelevant if the care is substandard. On the contrary, the most remarkable, compassionate, loving women dominate the field, mostly baby boomers themselves, spirit keepers to our aged parents and grandparents. The elite facilities that take your breath away upon entry, will never fool the senior who knows better that things of beauty and wealth matter so little if they do not feel loved and accepted. Many of my appointments involved touring the premises with the Director or Manager, but we never quite made the tour. Rather we spent time talking of our elders and the reverence they are entitled to, our children whom we hope will carry the torch bright with empathy for our aged families, the mission we feel we must pursue all in honour and gratitude to the 70,80, and 90 year olds that grace our earth. I felt so comforted knowing the likes of women like Barbara, Gloria, Theresa, Louise, Lisa, and Amy are out there with patient and devoted hearts, making the longest of days seem short and memorable for those, who at times, find the hours without end. Kudos to those that watch over mom and dad when we can't, to those selfless individuals that care when others don't...I remain grateful.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Catherine has overcome the flu!!!

Almost 3 weeks since Catherine took ill, we are now well enough to continue the work we started with organizing her suite, unpacking and finishing a rather large task. It takes very little to comfort any anxiety that comes with being older, a kind reassuring word and a free ear goes a long way. Our day was rather long, not for me but certainly for Catherine, as we took 5 hours to check many of the chores off the list.She has no idea how courageous and strong she is, having moved not only from one city to another, but also from another country....alone as well! As more time is spent with our seniors, I begin to understand the uncertainty, and self-criticism they are plagued with from one moment to another.Coming to terms with getting older, coping with physical and intellectual matters with greater uncertainty and less faith, opens the door to fear, rejection and loneliness. Catherine feels the need to apologize every other moment, feeling she is not worthy of another's help. I quipped that if I were to charge her $100.00 for all the countless insensitive remarks she subjects her spirit to, I would be a millionnaire! The saddest part of this remains her inability to see her strengths, her kind soul, her beauty, her worth. What becomes of us from our self assured 50's to our doubting 70's and 80's?  Is there anything we can do to bottle the confidence of our youth and middle years? Can we somehow dismiss as quickly as we demean? Does society play a role in assuring our seniors of their valued place among us? Will anything I say to Catherine make a difference to her esteem? Being a defender and staunch advocate of love and kindness, while I work the remaining days with Catherine, it will be the moments in between I'll fill with the power of persuasion, suggesting all that she is entitled to and worthy of....wish me luck....wish her.. .acceptance.