Before we go scoffing and rolling our eyes too loudly when it comes to mustering the patience for showing an ageing parent how to “logger” themselves onto a recently erected PC, iPad or tablet device, consider this:
—–> Your mother taught you how to hold a spoon, wipe your bottom and count to ten.
Did she poke fun at you then?
Or, when a grandparent who is desperately trying to master the art of “this emailer caper” just so she can stay in touch with her grandkids (yes, your children)… because nobody writes letters anymore and rather than being left behind and feeling cut-off from her family, she is at least making the effort to come to grips with all this “technical gadgetry” even though it is completely foreign, slightly intimidating and it just feels so damned impersonal to her.
And isn’t it just gorgeous (we try not to patronise) when she announces how mod and trendy she must be when she FINALLY manages to “pop off an email” to her darling 10 year old grandson, Max. It’s only taken her most of a day but she persevered and got there in the end.
Although, whether or not little Maxi actually received the email is a different story!
“Umm, did I push SEND… “
“Or was that the SAVE button… “
“Is there a way of getting it to come back???”
And then now that she’s so proficient and computer savvy, she even remembers to sign off with “LOL from Grandma” just for effect… because that’s Lots of Love, naturally!
You have to admire her for being so plucky and at least giving it a go, don’t you?
“Oh, Maxi will be SO impressed to see how his grandmother knows “dot com stuff!”
More and more it seems I’m getting asked by some very frowny-faced clients when I arrive at their homes, if I could please have a look at their jammed-up, unresponsive computers or merely to explain what “that funny noise” means and how “it only started making it after that dreadful storm yesterday”.
“Do you think perhaps some water got into the wiring, Dollie?”
That the “inter-web must be broken” or “I think I’ve broken Google” after accidentally deleting all the desktop icons. Or asking if one needed to locate an ‘App’ i order to bring up the local bus timetable. Or wondering why “my internet is so slow and it won’t let me start typing anything in”… only to discover one poor soul had inadvertently opened over 30 windows and had 14 tool bars running!!
“Would it be easier if I hopped on to ‘The Twitter’ instead, Dollie?”
In my experience (and being that it would be totally inhumane and nasty), there is no merit gained from sniggering into the face of an earnest older person who is already feeling inadequate. They understand and accept that all this new whizz-bang technology is completely over their head and that of course they know how ridiculous they must look to us younger smarty-pant types.
Instead, I sit down, and LISTEN to what they are trying to achieve and if it sounds like something basic (such as the ever-popular ‘not being turned on at the wall’), then I tactfully suggest we try giving the switch a flick and see how that goes.
“Oh, it happens all the time, Mrs Terrabyte, no need to feel embarrassed. In fact, I sometimes do the same thing myself!”
And then we laugh. Until she reveals for the life of her she can’t remember what her wretched password is… and could she use mine instead?
So here’s a cute little poem I found “on the line” that suits the occasion and ends very nicely too.
Of course in real life, we would never wish to lose dear ol’ Grannie into the deep dark depths of the cyberspace abyss (or have her gobbled up by a worm) in a million years.
Who else is gonna tell us what cupboard she hides the ‘cookies’ in… tee hee!!
Really, it’s of little surprise that many of the older adults I visit in their homes, enjoy listening to their radios.
More specifically, those with deteriorating vision or being that they might be frail or unwell (with mobility often compromised), they can find themselves in their late ‘golden years’, no longer able to indulge in traditional media entertainment pleasures the rest of us hipsters take for granted.
Vices such as watching television, reading a good book or wallowing for half a day with toast & coffee over the Sunday paper is simply no longer an option.
Popping on the ‘wireless’ therefore makes perfect sense!
Not that they are missing much, surely? It seems telly these days is unrelenting with it’s bombardment of rubbish ‘reality’ shows targeted solely towards the younger more impressionable audience, thereby leaving bewildered seniors often unable to relate and feeling overwhelmed at such bad taste and a definite absence of depth.
Instead, having a nice string of yesteryear tunes crooning away on the radiogram in the front room, works beautifully to lift sullen moods and put some zing into a lonely or sometimes socially isolated pensioner’s day. Memories of happy, more sprightly-er times are jogged by meaningful classics, as well as offering the much needed ‘company’ my clients might now be lacking.
“Hearing Vera Lynn always reminds me of my Edith and the times we used to sit in the back of the truck on our way to the dance at the town hall. Drinking home-made cider we’d nicked from my dad’s basement… we felt sooo naughty”
“…but naughty in a good way, Dollie!”
Talkback radio too, is ideal for supporting a forlorn or neglected senior through long periods of solitude and that despairing, yet understandable need for human interaction. They get to stay fully up to speed with the latest news and current affairs of the nation (usually in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep) plus share opinions and views with people of the same ilk.
“And, it’s great fun arguing the next day with Mavis and Lettie about the previous night’s topic. Can really get the blood churning – because I’m always RIGHT of course!”
Similarly, for some of my older gents who adore (and can’t live without) their daily infusion of Sport. Sadly though, thanks to medical conditions and the sheer exhaustion of it all, many have had to give up attending actual LIVE football games or cricket matches.
To quote dear old 97-year old Bert with ‘a gammy leg and both me dicky knees’:
“The logistics alone would just about kill me, Dollie!”
Instead, he attaches himself to his little black transistor (circa 1972) via a pair of well-used nicotine-stained earplugs and lies back in his armchair to bellow at “that frigging umpire” until he nods off with the excitement of it all.
I have to say now (in a big loud voice), earplugs or headphones are a superbly handy device for a lot of the hearing-impaired people I come across. Needless to say, they’re also a godsend for a spouse (or a budgerigar) who otherwise gets stuck tolerating the din!
“Jeee-zuz, Ref…my wife’s gotten pregnant from less contact than that!”
However… as marvellous and New-Age as all that is, I have other dear clients whom I help in their home, who can’t manage their broadcast transmissions to save themselves!
And it doesn’t matter how ludicrously large the knobs on their radios are, or how basic the design or how seemingly straightforward the technology is to operate… THEY WILL STILL FIND A WAY TO STUFF UP THE SETTINGS!
Today for example, I arrived at 87-year old Bill Whistley’s home and as I walked up the path, I was hit with an adorable Guns & Roses melody ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ booming off the Richter scale and making the crockery in Bill’s glass cabinet rattle.
“Blimmen ‘eck, I’ve tried fiddling with it, Dollie… but since I started my new pills, I’ve lost the feeling in my hands a bit. Can’t seem to land it on anything except THAT goddam racket.”
And in all the fluster, poor ol’ Bill decided to deal with the ear-splitting screams of Axel Rose the only way he knew how – by shutting all the doors and stowing himself away in his spare room. It never occurred to him to just switch his radio off at the wall!
“Oh, thank Heavens you’ve ended the wickedness, Dollie!”
Yet Bill is not alone with this terror of the airwaves! I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve walked into my client’s homes (I give up knocking as there’s literally NO CHANCE they can hear me) to find a brilliant selection of Hard Rock or Heavy Metal booming from within.
Dollie to the rescue – check out some of these pearlers!
“My house is so quiet during the daytime… it’s just nice to have something break the silence. Mind you, be good if it were something I could whistle to”
(You mean you CAN’T whistle to Spiderbaits’ toe-tapping version of ‘Black Betty’?)
“Oh the damn thing has a mind of its own. I set it on a nice bit of Sinatra but the next day it’s somehow flicked itself over and I’m left with that lot screeching at me!”
(Alice Cooper, anyone?)
“Oh is it, Dollie? I hadn’t noticed… I thought I was listening to Roger Whittaker!”
(‘Eye of the Tiger’… good for what ails ya)
“My son will be here later, I thought I’d leave it for him to sort out. Didn’t want to meddle in case I broke something. Plus it means I get to see him more often”
(Led Zeppelin at brekky time for a ‘Whole Lotta Love’)
“To be honest, Dollie… I’m deaf as a post so ANY noise is good”
(Just static was ‘playing’ in this lovely lady’s living room – LOUDLY)
“What’s FM then? I thought it said ‘AM’ and ‘PM’. So I’ve been switching the dial once I’ve had my lunch, over to the ‘PM’ for the afternoon session. Wondered why the tunes suddenly got a bit rowdy!”
(Let’s just hope he doesn’t actually end up “Burning Down the House’)
“It’s been begging for a fight all morning… I’d turn the dam contraption off if I knew how!”
(Yes, ‘Sexual Healing’ – always good for a bit of rough’n’tumble)
“Bloody things been making that racket since I dropped it down the back of the bed/in the sink/onto the cat…”
(who DIDN’T get their kids to sleep with that lovely ‘Smoke on the Water’ lullaby?)
Let’s face it, as some smarty-pants from somewhere once said: “RADIO: It’s like TV, only the pictures are better”.
Which is all very well and good – but it doesn’t really explain why I seem to be forever having to adjust my clients’ knobs !!!
Scams Against the Elderly are Going Unchecked in Our Suburbs
Too hard to prove!
Too sleazy to catch!
Leaving victims too embarrassed & too ashamed to report it!
Dear ‘Tom’ the Tree Man,
Firstly, thank you for kindly offering your Tree-felling services at the home of an elderly client of mine, Mrs Maria Popalotova, approximately six months ago.
Lovely Maria is a proud but humble, 89-year old Bulgarian-born lady who, although substantially vision-impaired, still lives alone in her large family home, stews jars of fruit (picked from her very own garden) and as the neighbours can testify – sings soprano in FULL voice whilst doing the housework chores. Suffering arthritis and prone to the odd fall (understandable when you’re officially legally blind), Maria is still mostly independent and in damn good nick for a mature girl.
Somehow, Tom, I suspect you may already have known some of this at the time?
In fact, Maria remarked to me not long after meeting you, that it was uncanny when you turned up on her doorstep one day, out of the blue, like you did. Straight after that huge storm we had; the one where horrific winds caused such massive destruction in her suburb.
Oh, what a godsend you were, Tom!
How else could Maria ever have realised the danger she was in with that large eucalyptus tree in her backyard leaning so perilously close to her bedroom window?
And, as you so earnestly advised her, it would only take one more big wind – and it could literally DESTROY HER ENTIRE HOUSE, didn’t you say, Tom? Crikey, Tom… you told Maria that THIS would happen:
And, therefore, it was imperative for Maria’s own safety, as you told her at the time, that the tree be removed IMMEDIATELY.
Oh, and what luck it was, Tom… that Maria had all that cash hidden away on the ledge above the kitchen stove, in her little secret teapot… the pretty white one with the pansies on it. Coincidentally, the precise amount you required to start the job, Tom – exactly $2000. What luck!
And a BARGAIN, you said, considering how the now terrified Maria’s life could be at stake if the teetering tree wasn’t removed by Friday.Why, it was pittance, really.
As you said, Tom, it would be foolish (and very “un-Australian”) NOT to pay you!And so she paid you willingly, Tom, because you were just so caring and concerned for her wellbeing.
Which is why Maria understood completely when you ever-so-politely insisted, that you have the cash up front to buy materials NOW.
IT WAS BECAUSE YOU CARED, TOM!
To be honest, finding people that actually do ‘care’ as much as you do, Tom, is pretty thin on the ground these days. Especially after hearing all these dreadful stories about elderly people being scammed by all sorts of dodgy tradesmen and fake utility servicemen.
Innocent elders who are conned out of money that they’ve saved up during their working lives; nest-eggs for retirement enabling them to enjoy their golden years; or just money set aside for increased medical costs from potential health issues associated with ageing.
And then there’s the appalling fraudsters, the lowest of the low, who just randomly turn up at people’s doors, unscrupulously offering so-called urgent maintenance of phone, gas or power lines.
Because nobody DARES mess with a potentially broken one of these.
As a scare tactic – IT’S PERFECT!
Then there’s the scoundrels posing as contractors who scope out neighbourhoods, watching for lonely and vulnerable older adults who, often desperate for company, are more than happy to believe the “nice man” at their front door.
And that these ‘necessary’ property repairs, such as broken roof tiles, brickwork, cracked concrete paths, driveways or garden maintenance – are absolutely genuine.
Come to think of it, Tom, a bit like the work you offered to do for Maria, wasn’t it?
It’s actually quite sad (and scary) to think that innocent senior citizens living alone are such easy targets to these con artists, merely because they choose to TRUST people.
Such a nasty world out there, Tom, when you think about it… to know that someone could sink that low?
And I’m sure it wasn’t your fault you were delayed, Tom.
As Maria said, you probably had a lot of other work in the area that needed doing, too. In fact, it was only a few weeks back when she said she thought you would return any day now. That you and your little unmarked yellow van would pull into her driveway with all the special equipment (that she paid for) to get that pesky tree down before it did any major damage.
SHE STUCK BY YOU, TOM!
Even when the contact details on your most professional-looking business card came back with ‘number not in service’…. she still had faith that you’d honour your word. Maria actually worried about you, Tom, and she hoped that nothing bad had happened to you.
Isn’t that sweet?
Funny thing about the big allegedly ‘dangerous’ gumtree, and perhaps you were looking at it from the wrong angle, Tom? But a man from the council came to check it out the other day and confirmed that it could never have been a threat to Maria’s home. Even if it did fall over – it just wasn’t big enough!
Sadly, Tom, in the last month or so, I have noticed a change in dear Maria. She is so much quieter than she used to be; she seems fearful and she’s lost a lot of her confidence and now relies on outside help with her daily routine more than she ever used to.
It’s painful to watch her become this way, Tom – almost as if she has given up on, well… PEOPLE?
Definitely hard to believe she’s the same bubbly lady who once sang (with gusto!) in the shower, bottled her own nectarines and enjoyed social bus trip outings with the local ‘Senior Citz’ club.
Instead she prefers to just stay at home alone. And just sit.
Her family now worry because Maria has become so frail and unwell that she can clearly no longer cope by herself.
Anyway, wherever you are, Tom… thanks so much again for all you’ve done. I heard only last Friday, that Maria’s home had been sold and she has since been re-located into an aged-care facility situated miles away from the life and the people she once knew and loved.
So in the meantime, one question… sorry, Tom. I know you’re such a busy and important man and all…
Would you mind if some devious sleaze-ball did this to YOUR dear old Mum?!?!
I’ve been having some interesting discussions with my clients lately and it’s all about one of my fave topics – FOOD.
In particular, are the seniors who’ve realised it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the presence of all the bizarre sounding grains or oddly-shaped fruit ‘n’ veg on trend and brazenly on display at the supermarkets nowadays.
Oh, I see them… with elbows leaned furtively on shopping carts they drift nonchalantly down the aisle, the majority with little idea what these new species are, what they DO… nor how to even peel one. Suffice to say, there’s little chance they’ll be cooking with one of these natural wonders any time soon.
But that’s not to say they can’t!
Most recent of the veg-du-jour would be Kale, Pomegranate, Avocado (ie: the smashing of) and the phenomena known as Quinoa (no, Mrs Smith, it’s pronounced “keen-wah”) which seem to be causing the most angst among my sceptical over-80’s mob.
Advised by their GPs or concerned family members (and splashed all over the lifestyle mags)… that these peculiar so-called ‘Superfoods’ are packed full of disease-fighting goodies. And that by consuming these wondrous beauties, seniors can decrease the probability of developing chronic illness, rehabilitate faster if they do, and subsequently, increase their chances of living much longer good quality lives.
Which got me thinking that not only is it Technology that an older adult is pressured to install, understand and hopefully utilise in today’s frantically progressive world…
… it’s also about what we EAT.
Having grown up in arguably more frugal times (where food just wasn’t permitted to be the obsession that it is now), it’s understandable why the mature-ager might find some of the latest meal trends confusing and intimidating. People are living for longer that’s true, but it’s a scientific fact that age-related health issues such as diabetes, stroke or heart disease (conditions that would have once knocked you off in your 60’s) are now being managed more efficiently, purely by what we stick in our mouths.
Unfortunately along the way… food over-sensitivity, allergies and intolerances have also become commonplace and it’s been a huge learning curve for many ‘old-school’ folk to not only embrace the modern ideals toward the food they eat, but to accept that their own health may be in jeopardy if they don’t.
Noticeable, too, are the strange codes added to the selections on the menus of our favourite restaurants. Shown as GF, LF or V for example, these nifty symbols offer the diner-outer all sorts of solutions to their dickey dietary dilemmas. Although this may baffle some who might feel it’s easier to trust the Gods, close their eyes and just order a Vine-Ripened Pachino Tomato, Roasted Bell Capsicum & Basil Pesto Linguiniwith Pine Nuts & lightly-fried Zucchini flower, and a Caprese Quinoa & Almond Saladon the side… rather than risk looking a fool by enquiring about it first.
“No such thing as a Nut Allergy when we were kids. Oh, except when I first met my Douggie at the school dance – he was NUTTY alright!”
“How can being a Vegetarian be good for you? Eating too many greens… GIVES ME THE SQUIRTS!”
“Special Dietary Requirement? That’s me making sure I have a wine with dinner!”
“Not sure about this ‘organic food’ thing… in my day, it was just called FOOD”
“Gluten-free, you say. So, I have to eat less glutes?!?!”
Not to mention all the latest cookbooks encouraging us to replace the tried-and-true ingredients of our classic recipes with slinkier, nutrient-laden alternatives. Gone are the days where a lump of meat (“whatever’s on special, dear”) is bunged into the oven in a layer of lard with a wheelbarrow-load of salt tipped over it to enhance flavour!
Instead, poor old Mum, has had to haul herself out of her lifelong culinary comfort zone to produce such delights as a zucchini & feta fritter, organic eggplant fries and get her head around long lanky limbs of broccolini… steamed for 23 seconds (no-more, no less) for her son’s pretty, but pedantic Vegan yoga-instructor fiancee.
No longer can she happily enjoy the sumptuous spitting of lamb chops as they fry mercilessly on the stove top as she did in ye olden days either. Ah no! They must be eased gently under the grill and then delicately dabbed at repeatedly with a roll of triple-ply paper towels to ensure every last dot of oil has been safely extracted.
BECAUSE, OH GOD, WE CAN’T GET FAT!
She then has to skill-up on the magic of the ‘shop and chop’ – buying, and then dicing great sprigfuls of fresh herbs, fancy-schmancy spices for wholesome homemade marinades (no additives, PLEASE!) in the quest to present modern adaptations of traditional feasts to her fussy grown-up family.
Which can be bloody hard work when Mama has a dicky knee, arthritic hands and poor eyesight!
But, as a carer on the go, I do find it exciting and hugely inspiring when some of my tentative, yet respectfully brave clients at least give it a go. Seizing this new ‘foodie’ adventure by it’s edible entrails and taking an active interest in managing their own health with all the exotic, albeit daunting-looking food choices they can now make.
And even more impressively – is the trendy COOKING techniques they’ve learnt to whip it all together!
One of my clients, for example, 90 year old Bert Walloven is the most gorgeous man who nearly fell to bits living on just boiled eggs, fish paste & water-crackers, after his wife died last year. However, he pulled himself up by his apron strings and found new vigour in teaching himself how to bake Banana Loaf in a posh bread-maker appliance he found at the back of ‘the wife’s’ pantry.
Every Tuesday afternoon when I visit Bert now, he insists I make time before I leave, for a compulsory taste-test of a slice of his latest creation. Ahh yes, any excuse for a cuppa and a chat! None of your plain boring stodge either – last week it was Pumpkin Bread with honey oat and cranberry chunks.
Interesting to note, I find the biggest motivator for my elders to climb aboard the Superfood train by including more fresh ingredients in their diet, is the possibility that it might lessen the chances of them developing Alzheimer’s disease. Whether that’s true or only slightly true-ish (and it can’t hurt)… it seems many seniors, terrified of losing brain function, will go to great lengths to prevent this from happening and do whatever it takes to maintain the health of their minds.
Indeed, it turns out that you CAN teach a dog of more advanced years new tricks! It merely depends on whether the old Golden Retriever in question is willing (and open-minded enough), to give the tricks a go!
We all feel nervous when it comes to trying new things – of course we do! A fear of failure, feeling unsafe and exposed, or the big one… looking silly or inept in front of others. And with this traditionalist Boomer generation, it’s understandable why they might stubbornly opt to stay with the mindset that they’ve already made it through the obstacles of life; they’ve come through ‘the War’ living on sausage meat and sawdust. They’ve acquired all the learning needed for survival so “there’s nothing more I need to know, thank you very much!”
A perspective that sadly means the ability to grow (and thrive) by learning new ‘tricks’ and being empowered from new lifestyle choices which might just allow people to not only live longer, but live BETTER… gets lost in the despair and gloominess of ‘being old’.
Which, thankfully, is NOT the case for Bert and his Breadmaster 2000! Lovely Bert informs me his latest project is a Wholemeal Caramel, Apple & Quinoa Pecan Loaf. And “just for fun”, it’s also going to involve (winkity, wink)… A RUM SWIRL.
“It seems the SKIN… that I’m IN… is terribly, terribly… THIN!”
Ever wondered why you never see a loofah brush, exfoliating mitt, nor any other type of abrasive body-scrubbing device in a mature person’s bathroom? That’s excluding the mandatory piece of dried-up pumice stone once used to file corns and callouses from busy, hard-working feet of a lifetime ago.
Well, there’s good reason for it apparently. Summed up perfectly by 89 year old Elizabeth Waterduck as I chatted to her during her shower last week:
“At my age? Crikey, I’d end up skinned alive like a Chinese dog if I used one of those now!”
Understandably, for most of the older peeps I visit in their homes, their skin is a fairly pertinent issue. They know only too well that if something new or unusual appears on their outer – there’s a darn good chance that something more threatening may be happening on their inner.
Physiological changes such as connective tissue breakdown, the lessening of elastin and collagen production, a limited ability to retain moisture, plus an increasingly slower metabolism in general – all contribute to the breakdown of our skin’s integrity as we age.
And as a consequence of this dermal deterioration, we then get to watch in despair as the inevitable creases, folds and ridges creep leisurely onto our skin’s surface to create that familiar ‘old person’ look…
Come on, sing it with me now: WRINKLES!
Throw in the exhaustion of the juicy subcutaneous fat layer beneath, too, means the natural oils which once protected us from damage and gave skin it’s firm, voluptuous appearance – are depleted. Thus leaving some elders with a moisture-less, thinned barrier that’s vulnerable to anything untoward.
Oh yes, defences by this stage, can most definitely be down!
Understandably, with skin that’s as delicate and translucent as Lizzy Waterduck’s, the last thing she’d consider doing as part of her shower routine, even if she might have done it regularly in her carefree middle-aged years… is to slough off yet another (possibly the last?) layer from her precious epidermal.
Of course, other contributing factors such as lifestyle, genetics and diet can also throw skin balance right out of whack. Interestingly, one of the major roles of our outer dermis is to maintain the body’s natural thermostat. Which explains why so many seniors, I swear, seem to spend most of their days grumbling how cold they are, even in the height of a summer heatwave.
“Brrrr… shut the dam door, girlie!”
Progressing into our ‘twilight’ years, too, means we might also get to grow unsightly skin tags, unflattering strangely-shaped moles and, prevalent on the backs of hands, balding heads, ears, arm, noses and necks… are the brownish-coloured ‘liver’ or sun spots we stereotypically associate with someone ‘being old’.
These annoying tell-tale blemishes are a result of spending entire lives being hat-less and factor-less for long periods exposed to the outside elements. And declaring “but we didn’t know any better”, does nothing to fix the skin damage already caused.
Sadly, it doesn’t matter how much sunscreen grandad coats himself in now, it’s a case of too-little too-late for these old timers.
And there are other less than delightful skin conditions we become more predisposed to as we age. Dermatitis, eczema and pruritis are afflictions which are all identifiable with dry, ageing skin and will continue to drive itchy, older folk to reach for the tried-and-true camomile lotion by the gallon.
But flaky, scaly skin is a bad thing when you’re in your advanced years because when skin has become so dry that it’s now irritated and cracking open, there is opportunity galore for serious infection to enter and perilously thrive it’s head off.
With immunity already compromised in sick or frail seniors or those suffering with pre-existing health complaints, the skin, whose job as the built-in protection layer stopping the big bad germ-laden world from entering our bodies and making us unwell, becomes weakened and unable to hold ground when it’s really needed most.
A seemingly small injury to a mature-ager’s cutaneal areas (even the slightest scratch), if not treated appropriately, can easily lead to serious complications and a much longer recovery time leaving an elder either in hospital… or in a very, very bad mood!
Indeed, depending on the state of it – our skin can quite literally mean the difference between life and death!
More significantly for an anxious pensioner, it can also mean the difference between remaining at home or being despatched to live in an aged-care facility… ie: the dreaded nursing home.
I get to observe a lot of skin, in varying condition, when I visit my clients at this stage of their lives. Assisting them to shower and maintain regular hygiene habits is integral to self-esteem, dignity and indicative to the rest of the world (ie: suspicious adult children) that they’re still capable of living independently.
And although not medically trained, an experienced carer can become quite astute in recognising symptoms of potential health issues, merely by observing the condition or noting even slight changes in a naked senior’s skin – especially at shower time.
Bruises, for example, can be discovered during Personal Care shifts and might be the result of a fall, walking into the coffee table – or possibly from something more sinister? A quick mention here regarding Elder Abuse and that ALL suspicions of such should be reported immediately and without hesitation.
Haematoma (bruising) can look dreadful on pale older skin and thanks to sluggish metabolisms, may take months to totally heal and fade. Not helped by certain medications used to control inflammatory conditions common in old age (stiff joints, arthritis, COPD, diabetes etc) which, as a pesky side-effect, can leave seniors exceptionally prone to bruising.
Such as one of my clients, 79 year old Hilary Crabtree who relies on steroidal drugs to control symptoms of her advancing emphysema. These powerful meds offer a fabulous quality of life and are literally life-saving for someone like Hilary.
More importantly (she informs me), they allow her to be top of her game on the golf course!
BUT… it was discovered recently, that Hilary’s skin had in fact become so thinned and susceptible to even the slightest touch that something as flimsy as the seam on her new golf slacks is enough to cause extensive black and blue marks down both her shins.
I mean, did you EVER?
For obvious reasons, assisting a senior to wash their outer body involves common sense, a good bit of empathy and patience… plus a WHOLE LOTTA care and attention. Jagged fingernails or solid objects such as jewellery, rings etc can inflict catastrophic damage to paper-thin skin – and often with very minimal force applied.
Cringe-worthy is the story about a carer once who, worrying about getting to her next job on time, ripped an enormous gash in her client’s calf while attempting to yank up his support hose (commonly used to control circulation in the lower limbs). In her haste, she hadn’t realised the tag on the garment had accidentally embedded itself into the poor old gent’s skin which then sliced deeply all the way up his leg as she pulled.
Ohhhh, THE HUMANITY!
Which explains why some of my more delicate ladies fear using even a standard flannel or wash cloth that the rest of us ruffians take for granted. Instead, they prefer to wash with a tiny square of baby muslin or light-weight sponge, both of which seem so floaty and flimsy – you wonder if it’s worth bothering!
There’s certainly no RUBBING or SCRUBBING involved. Just a lot of gentle circles and tender dabbing to ensure their sensitive aged skin is left suitably cleansed, and more importantly – unbroken.
Thankfully, it turns out that the older we get, the less cleansing our skin actually requires! With retirement marking an inevitable slump in physical activity, there are now far less occasions to get a big ‘sweat-up’ like we once might have. Common thought now is that it’s more than adequate for a senior to instead shower every other day (or less), thereby allowing natural oils in the skin a chance to replenish and build resistance against all the nasties.
“And so I can get my GLOW on!”
As one of my lovelies, Gladys Gigglestick, proudly preaches.
Funnily enough, Gladys swears by sweet almond oil as her choice of shower time lather – and NEVER soap.
“Because soap is just too harsh and leaves me dry, rashy and itchier than an old man’s tweed vest”.
Which is fair enough when you’re 95 and you’ve been in this bathing game long enough to know! Admittedly, the almond oil (which smells devinely like Christmas pudding) does leave Gladys’ skin noticeably well-nourished and ever so moisty.
Although, when she holds my arm stepping out of the shower, I have to make sure I plant my feet firmly to keep us both steady… blimmen ‘eck, she’s as shiny and slippery as an eel!
I came across this curious magazine advertisement whilst sitting bored on a plane recently. It caught my eye for two reasons:
1. I’d only just written an article about the ‘Worst Xmas Gifts Ever’, and…
2. Why was this cheery, yet smug-looking woman in beige slacks STANDING ON A TOILET???
The Best Xmas Gift Ever!!
“Usually for Christmas, my children buy me towels or pillows or once even a basket for the cat. Last year, after a wonderful lunch in the park with my family, we came home and I found that for a Christmas gift my son had organised the replacement of my old toilet seat with an electronic Bidet toilet seat. I had seen them advertised on TV and thought what a great idea.” After two weeks of having my new Bidet, I wondered how I had ever survived previously without it. All I have to do is sit down on my nice warm seat and go to the loo. Once I am finished I simply press a button and I get a warm water rush and a stream of warm air dry. Now almost a year later, it has changed my life. I have saved a fortune in toilet paper and, I see going to the toilet as a time of luxury. It is the best Christmas gift I have ever received!” – Sylvia Ross –
Upon reading the ad, I discovered that delighted ‘Sylvia’, is actually the proud owner (and operator) of a shiny new Bidet-style toilet seat attachment, secretly installed by her son as a surprise for Christmas.
That is, NOT an advert for your traditional (and kinda terrifying) stand-alone bidet.
Instead, Sylvia gleefully introduces us to the wondrous Electronic Bidet Toilet Seat! A magical two-in-one appliance that means upon completing her regular toileting ablutions, Sylvia gets to be luxuriously “warm water washed” and then blissfully“air-dried”.
And without having to budge! Can you even imagine?
I later showed the mag clipping to my own mother just out of interest. Similar in vintage to Sylvia, it was interesting to hear Mum’s views on the whole BIDET topic. From the perspective of someone who, much like most of us who find those ‘odd-shaped water fountain thingies’ usually found only in hotels totally intimidating, she admitted that if she had to use a bidet – she really wouldn’t know where to start.
“It’s more of an upper-class European thing, isn’t it… or is it something the prostitutes in Amsterdam use?”
“My friend from bowls has a bidet – but she washes her Chihuahua in it.”
“I’d be scared it might explode… gosh, I could end up giving myself some sort of a nasty enema!”
All silliness aside, I did start thinking that perhaps Sylvia was ON to something (literally). And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed there were definite advantages to be had by a sensitive Senior considering enhancing their current loo to include a shiny new automatic built-in bidet.
Interestingly, (but a bit odd) I discovered later after a bit of research, that the word Bidet comes from the French meaning ‘small horse’.
“Oh, so you strap yourself on and ride it like a pony?”
Yep, thanks Mum.
And that apparently, it was the Japanese who first invented the modern integrated ‘toilet-bidet’ as a nifty space-saving device. Without need of a plumber, it is supposedly simple to install and something an older person (or obliging family member) could manage without too much fuss.
Merely replacing the current tatty old dunny seat with a fabulous whizz-bang electric one. Easy peasy… botty-squeezy!
Being suitably impressed by this snazzy new bathroom gadget (and without sounding like I have shares in the company), I have since started singing the praises of these electronic bidet toilet seats (aka EBTS) to some of my elderly clients.
Especially for those suffering from never-ending incontinence or constipation episodes; or pesky mobility issues due to frail, weakened bones and stiff arthritic joints. I reckon it would be hard not to appreciate the enormous potential health benefits an all-in-one EBTS might provide. Not to mention for those in their twilight years being more financially set to ‘splash out’ (ahem) and spoil themselves on a nice bit of luxury during their retirement.
8 fab reasons to get an EBTS installed at your parent’s (or your) house :
1. You can do your ‘business’, then clean-up, dry-up all in one hit… in one SIT?
2. You can stay safe. Not having to go ‘up down’ twice from a toilet to a separate bidet means less chance of a skate on slippery tiles.
3. Personal hygiene is improved and more effective due to not having to awkwardly reach around to wipe. Tender, sore and ‘ouchy’ bottoms can stay cleaner – and heal faster.
4. No hands required. Mission complete – without having to touch your rude bits!
5. Issues such as constipation can be eased (eased out?) by caressing streams of warm water directed in all the right places.
6. You can feel ‘shower fresh’ using an EBTS without having to fully strip off and endure the physical ordeal of an actual shower.
7. There is less dependence on caregivers – which means preserving one’s self-confidence (and dignity).
8. The warm-air dryer of the EBTS means those with ‘greenie’ tendencies can feel most satisfied that they’re saving “shit-loads” on toilet paper – HOORAY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!
As a rule, there’s not much in the way of kindness on offer in busy shopping centre carparks – especially from strangers performing the same tiresome routine as you.
Well today turned out to be my lucky-ducky-day!
Having pushed a way too over-loaded trolley out to my car (I detest the weekly supermarket battle but it’s just got to be done), I was puffing a bit and probably looked as hot and bothered as I felt.
Whilst then transferring the weighty grocery bags into my car boot, I remembered a couple of essentials I’d forgotten to buy (why didn’t I make a goddam list?) so my head was miles away when an older man with lush white beard and dainty gold spectacles appeared beside me asking if he could perhaps give me a hand?
Gesturing towards my now empty cart he smiled and said in a most gentlemanly voice, “Can I return that for you, dear?”
My initial reaction was to decline politely this neatly-dressed chap’s offer. For heaven’s sake, I was the carer who looked after elderly people – it should be ME offering to help HIM!
And he was clearly no spring chicken. Although still quite sprightly, his light-weight frame and obvious hip issue made him look far too frail to be flinging other people’s grocery carts about.
Not only that, but I had to go back into the shopping centre anyway, which meant walking directly past the Trolley Return bay. How easy-peasy it would be for me to whip my own cart (with it’s annoying dicky wheel) into the loading bay as I dashed by.
However, something in this earnest senior’s eyes made me zip my lip and realise that this was in fact, not about me.
Turns out that Ray (yes, we got chatting) was having his 90th birthday next week and he was really looking forward to the afternoon High Tea his family and friends (“the ones that haven’t dropped off, yet!”) were holding in his honour. He told me how he had never felt so good – perhaps he might even have a gin or two on the BIG DAY!
“Gee whiz, I’m excited to be alive, Dollie!”
Ray then went on to explain how having something to look forward to and feel special about, had made such a difference to his life. Especially after losing his wife Anne last year ‘to the Cancer’ had left him feeling lonely, depressed and quite lost.
Indeed, I recognised there was far more significance in allowing lovely, high-spirited Ray assist with my ridiculous supermarket trolley than there was in me trying to save time and supposed unnecessary fuss.
And it wasn’t because Ray just happened to be passing that he’d felt obliged to make the offer; nor because he thought I actually really needed any real help.