The dance of being a caregiver
There is a lot of learning in taking care of the elderly. Boundaries are understood at an ever deeper level. For instance, when to step in and to know when doing anything is inappropriate and even harmful. No matter the age, if the mind is still sharp, all that can be done is to try to communicate ones concerns for whatever situation arises that can cause concern. Falls are a major danger, so I will find myself asking one of charges to please use more caution. Sometimes I am listened to, at others they pretty much let me know that they do not plan on falling, thank you, so there is no problem. So I smile and let them be.
However, when the mind become confused, then they need more direction and care. This can be painful on an emotional level for the caregiver, for the patient may not understand what is going on and may interrupt what is being done is not to protect but to in fact imprison. This stage usually does not last long, for the "new normal" soon becomes just "normal". Medication can help, but it is important not to give so much that they can't interact with those around them. It is quite a dance. The relationship can be intense and at times draining but in the end well worth it. For the majority of those I have taken care of, the good days far outweigh the bad ones. Yes there are angry moments, then funny ones, then tender exchanges that balance out. For those who look in from the outside, can often misinterpret the quality of life of the elderly, because there is no personal give and take. As I have said before....None that I have taken care of have ever asked to be killed, they do ask however to not allow their death to be extended by artificial means. Also that they receive all the help they need if there is pain. One of the blessings of hospice is that the medicines needed are not difficult to acquire.
Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO
Holy Spirit Monastery