Adventures in Eldercare July 2012
A few weeks ago I came home for a quick lunch and to feed my dog, Rocky. Rocky is a 13 year old Golden Retriever. He used to be waiting at the door for me when he was younger but now I have to go look for him and wake him up. I loaded up his food dish and gave him fresh cold water; he started to eat and I left him to make myself a sandwich. A couple moments later I looked over and Rocky was just standing in front of his food dish staring at his half eaten food.
This lasted long enough that I called out to him; he did not respond or look my way. Now Rocky does not hear very well anymore so I was not surprised he did not respond. I called out again, ROCKY! He looked at me, back at his food, back to me. I walked over to him and shook his bowl under his nose, he quickly started eating again. I think he forgot what he was doing! It was the first time that I realized that Rocky was having difficulties, not unlike many of our elderly care clients, with his memory and staying on task. It helped explain a few other things that had been a bit “odd” lately in his behavior. He had nipped at my son Richard for no apparent reason, perhaps he was confused or frightened.
The lesson I learned that day was that he was not the same dog that I had all these years, he was different now and he had to be treated differently. I had to start thinking more compassionately about him and put myself in his ‘paws’.
So many of the families we work with in Eldercare are stuck with the image of their vital and active parents and they can’t accept how they have changed. They just want it to be the way it was. But the hard reality is that it is never going to be how it was. Things have changed and how you deal with those changes, and how you accept those changes in your elderly parent or relative will have a profound effect on your level of satisfaction in your interactions. Make those small and large adjustments and put yourself in their “shoes” every now and then and think what it must be like to not remember what you are doing, or not be able to follow a rapid conversation. By doing this you may anticipate a problem before it happens and help smooth out the day to day activities of life with an aging Elder. This is compassion at the most intimate level; a true joy of service will follow.
On the bright side, Rocky and I still go on our daily walk. It used to be about 5 Km but now we are down to around 3 Km and he’s kind of pushing it to do that now. We do walk at a good pace, about 4.5 Km/h, for Rocky, this is the equivalent of a 91 year old man running 5 Km every day. So Rocky may have his limitations in some areas, but if you look at his physical endurance he is still a champion. Eureka! I think there is another lesson to be learned here!
I hope everyone is having an awesome summer. It’s hot, hot, hot, so stay cool, stay hydrated and keep that positive attitude tuned up! It makes life so much better!
Dr. Bruce Veltri operates Victoria Eldercare, a non-medical home care agency matching exceptional care-givers with elderly seniors, to help them maintain independence and remain safely in their own home. Victoria Eldercare can be contacted by phone, 519-429-2644 or the web-site, www.victoriaeldercare.com