“Oh, thank goodness it’s you, Dollie. Well, what a day I’m having!
Would you believe it? It’s been like a train station here today. Heaven knows what the neighbours must be thinking!
First I had a nice man, Derek, from the council come and do my Home Help. Must’ve been 9 o’clock when he arrived because he was here quite early. I usually have Sharon come at 10 o’clock… but I think she’s away on holiday?
So instead Derek came, but he was lovely.
And he did a really good job… which I was worried about because it’s never the same as when a woman cleans, you know?
Anyway, so while Derek was here, I had my physiotherapy man, Gary arrive. He could see Derek with the vacuum cleaner, hoovering away, making a racket.
So Gary left, said he’d come back later. Which is fine ‘cos I’m not going anywhere with this useless leg!
And then just as Gary was going, blooming heck, my son in law, Tony turns up to check the tap in the bathroom. Stupid things been dripping it’s head off and my hands aren’t strong enough to twist it, so I can’t turn it off properly.
So I had Tony in the bathroom, Derek beavering away, Gary doing wheelies in the driveway…. then blow me down, silly old Jim from the Bird Society pops by!
He likes to go through the minutes of our Meetings before he prints the newsletter each month. To be honest, I think he just likes the company but that’s OK because he’s a nice enough chap and he doesn’t stay long.
He smells like lavender…. which is an odd flavour for a man, don’t you think, Dollie?
Then I laughed because just as I was waving that lot off, I had Gary the Physio come back – as well as Ron from over the back fence came to chop my hedges back at the same blooming time! Talk about bedlam in the front garden… and it wasn’t even lunchtime!
Thank goodness Tony was here to sort them out with reversing their cars down the drive… and making sure Jim didn’t hit the fence. He’s got terrible eyesight, Jim, he’s already hit it once before… silly old duffer. I’m amazed they let him still drive!
So, while I had all this going on… I could see nosey-parker Shirley from across the road peering out of her windows. Easy to spot ‘cos the curtains were twitching away…
Oh, she was LOOKING alright!
Then Gladys from next door came outside… pretending to check her letterbox for what must’ve been the umpteenth time, haha she thinks I don’t know what she’s really up to. Having a good long sticky-beak she was…eyes nearly POPPING!
I can see how they’d be wondering though; their heads would be spinning. Blooming heck, I’ve never had so many men at my house at the one time ! And all in one hit… ha ha MOST UNSAVOURY!
Felt like I was in one of those SEX windows in that street over in Amsterdam. You know, in the red light district there where it’s all legal. Where the ladies stand round waiting to lure in the men… WITH THEIR BITS OUT!
Even my son in law Tony had a good laugh after they’d finally all gone. “Geez Rosie, I’m starting to wonder what you’ve got going on here… EXACTLY WHAT COLOUR IS THE LIGHT ON YOUR FRONT PORCH AGAIN?”
***Mrs Rosanne D. Pimms, aged 88 – Jam & Pickling specialist, Budgerigar enthusiast, Neighbourhood Watch president (recently suspended…)
Care-Worker Tips: For When your Elderly Client is MIA
SIGNS THAT SOMETHING COULD BE AMISS:
1. Blinds down in the middle of the day.
2. A barking and very annoyed-sounding dog.
3. Client’s car (if they still drive) is in the driveway / is not in the driveway
4. An over-flowing letterbox.
These would be the winning top four indicators that tell me, as a visiting Carer on the job, that there may be something awry when I arrive for a shift at the home of an older person. Inevitably, one or all of these ‘clues’ will mean my Client has either gone out, is in bed, or possibly laying injured on the floor hoping that someone, OH PLEASE GOD… will find them.
Perhaps from a medical emergency, or more commonly – they’ve had a nasty FALL.
A jam-packed letterbox I am immediately suspicious of. Especially if there is distinct and varying shades of weathered-ness on the junk-mail spilling out of it. Goodness knows how many days it’s been piling up for (or why the postie insists on stuffing more in???).
In my experience, this says ‘nobody is looking out for me; I am all alone’ and it’s never a good sign.
That, or my Client has been whisked away by an enthusiastic son or daughter for family jollies at the beach house and, what with the excitement of it all… nobody thought to call and cancel mum’s scheduled shifts.
A more common occurrence over the festive season or public holidays, obviously.
Similarly, an unrestrained Maltipoo with a demented look in it’s eye, doing cartwheels across the furniture and yapping its head off as you buzz the doorbell, can be of great concern too. If ‘mum’ was OK and had been poised waiting for her Home Carer’s visit as normal, she would’ve already bellowed “OH SHUT UP, MOLLY!” and had him tethered to the leg of the kitchen table by now.
Observing blinds that are down or curtains tightly drawn still in ‘night time’ mode when it’s well past lunchtime-o’clock, doesn’t send me much of a positive vibe either. A creature of habit Mr Bill Cornfoot, he should be sitting in his lounge room armchair munching a cheese sandwich, half watching TV, half doing the crossword at this time of day.
Why isn’t he calling out for me to come straight in like he usually does?
And why is his door LOCKED???
Ah, yes… waiting for a Senior to arrive at their front door can be a worrisome few moments for a travelling Care-worker. And tempting though it is to roll your eyes and say “Oh god, where’s he gone this time?” You know in reality, that there is every conceivable possibility that something untoward may have happened to your beloved Client.
The more likely scenario though, is that they have merely forgotten what day it is and have instead gone out. Doctor’s appointments, to the shops for groceries, getting their hair done, a day at the races, or been taken by friends to play the pokies at the RSL… we hear it all.
And that’s fine. As long as we KNOW.
I have several repeat offender Clients in this category who despite having had their Home Help service scheduled at the EXACT same time, on the EXACT same day, every week for the last two years, they continue their pattern of being frequently absent on service day.
Arrrggggh the frustration! So then we play the waiting game…
Because bound by a Duty of Care policy, as a paid Carer I am obliged to take appropriate and timely action when a Client fails to present at the door to ensure they are found safe ‘n’ sound and free from harm.
The key word here being: FOUND.
THE ART OF DOOR-KNOCKING
But before launching the official Sea-to-Air search & rescue mission, it’s important to give your aged Client a fair amount of time to respond to your initial knock. Followed by a calculated and respectful waiting period (depending on their general state of health and / or their mobility speed), before you go leaning on doorbells or knocking more loudly-er for the second, third or one hundredth time.
Some people can become exceptionally aggravated if they feel pressured into hurrying unnecessarily – so use your discretion. One buzz only, then wait… count to to 20 or whatever it takes before you start ding-donging away furiously.
Remember the reason you are there. And that it’s not about YOU getting to your lunch break on time – keep your composure and STAY COOL!
(Futile when they aren’t home of course, but as a process of elimination it has to be done).
And while some Clients with gazelle-like reflexes are capable of appearing within seconds (they’ve been glued to the window since breakfast in anticipation of your arrival) other movement-compromised Seniors can take many minutes to complete the long, pain-staking trip up the hallway to their front door.
Handy if you know this because you visit them regularly, but hard to juggle waiting time-frames if you’re meeting a brand new Client for the very FIRST time. You don’t want to appear rude or impatient by knocking or ringing continuously, yet you also hope your Client has heard the doorbell and is at least on their way.
More often than not though, you’ll find the more slower-paced folk will either call out that they are coming, or for you to “Come in, dear” which solves the problem, saves you time and puts everyone’s minds at ease immediately.
Some of my more frail Clients, however, can be SO delicate or unwell (you actually wonder how they manage living alone) that their families conveniently arrange for a key-safe to be affixed outside the front door somewhere, perhaps attached to a step railing or post.
This brilliant contraption requires a secret code number to open it before: Hey Presto! It pops open to reveal a key hiding snug inside for you, as their Carer, to let yourself in.
Word from the wise here: Make sure you knock first before you stride on in. And also call out to announce your arrival. You don’t want your unsuspecting client, in mid-doze, dying of fright as you suddenly appear with your bucket and mop from behind the sofa!
Oh, and make sure you PUT THE KEY BACK in the safe for other Carers who might need to get in after you’ve been and gone. The havoc you can create if you forget this can be totally disruptive and cause all sorts of headaches.
STALK YOUR CLIENT
Once you’ve done the acceptable amount of knocking and ringing, and you still haven’t had a response, there are windows you can peer through, and gently tap upon, as well.
Move stealthily around the outer rim of the house, calling out their name and rat-a-tat-tatting as you go, just on the off-chance that your Client is in another room, in the shower, or maybe just finishing up important business in the bathroom… no presh!
Or perhaps they haven’t got their hearing aids in?
Or they’re yakking on the phone?
Or they’re having a bit of a zzzz after a poor night’s sleep?
Keep knocking and also check out in the back yard and garage areas too, if you can access them. I once had a Client whose life revolved completely around her magnificent garden so I knew I’d always find her out back in her wide-brimmed hat digging away in the veggie patch… head down, bum up!
Sometimes too, at this nomadic point, you’ll find a neighbour can often lean over the fence and offer you THEIR five bobs worth on where they think your Client is (or isn’t).
“Oh I saw the ambulance there early this morning. Mary’s daughter said she may’ve had a heart attack so I think they’ve taken her in for some tests.”
Although not to be taken as gospel, you at least know that something serious has happened which explains why your dear Client is not going to be home no matter how furiously you knock. At this point, you’d report in to the office and let them take them wheel.
HELP! I’VE FALLEN OVER!
The other less desirable scenario, is discovering your Client on the ground from having an incident such as a Fall. As unpleasant as this thought is, it is very much a reality considering the age and the state of health of the older adults you are dealing with.
I once found dear Mr Jeffery Bonecracker out by his clothesline one afternoon after he’d tripped over the peg basket and gone for a tumble. Although he swore he was fine and ‘please don’t make a fuss, Dollie’, turns out he had a shattered hip, a dislocated shoulder and required two months in hospital (throw in a further six weeks in Rehab).
FUSS?! Very glad I chose to ignore Jeff’s plea and immediately called emergency services for a whole ambulance-load of fuss!
Note: Never hesitate in calling for an ambulance if you feel it’s warranted. Better safe than sorry – you don’t want the alternative on your conscience.
PASS THE BUCK
So once you’ve explored all the accessible surroundings of your Client’s property (and checked under the clothesline) and you STILL haven’t made contact, it’s time to officially launch into plan B: Ring your office.
Here is the typical procedure a Care Co-Ordinator or Administrator might follow when they receive a report from a Support Worker out in the field with a Client who has not responded:
STEP 1:Phone the Client’s Phone directly:
Fortunately, nine times out of ten, success is often achieved at this point because although your Client may not hear a Support Worker banging, ringing and hollering like a crazed loon at the front door – the sound of their home phone ringing seems to grab attention fairly smartly!
STEP 2:Ring the Rellies:
Failing that, and there is still no response from within the Client’s residence… the office will then call any Next of Kin/Emergency Contacts listed on file in the hope that somebody somewhere may know where your absent Senior is today.
Often, in all the fervour of a better offer, some Clients just downright forget to notify their care provider that they won’t be home today and to please cancel service. Annoying, but understandable and as we all know in life – stuff happens.
STEP 3: Call the Police:
Finally, the last ditch effort in pin-pointing the whereabouts of your missing Senior is to bring in The Law. Meaning yes, the Police are informed and a Welfare Check is systematically conducted by them at your Client’s home to ascertain if they are in there or not. If that means breaking down the door then SO BE IT!
I remember one day not being able to locate my client Mrs Doreen Appelblatt… to pick her up and take her for her regular weekly one hour of shopping. I’d felt quite concerned at the time when she didn’t answer her door as she had complained only the week before of experiencing dizzy spells and ‘feeling a bit off’ recently.
The office too, had exhausted all avenues of contact but had managed to locate Doreen’s daughter Ellie who had also become quite anxious. So much so, that she had jumped in the car and driven the hour long trip to Doreen’s house to see for herself where mum was.
“I rang and reminded her last night that Dollie was coming today to take her shopping – she should be home!”
Oh god, what if she was on the floor, had slipped in the shower, passed-out and unconscious in the bathroom? Perhaps she’d banged her head on the dresser and was slowly bleeding to death after crawling on hand ‘n’ knee trying to haul herself to the phone?
As peppy and alert as Doreen usually seemed, she was 88 years old and had had medical mishaps in the past. Perhaps her number was up and she now lay slumped in a chair from suffering a life-threatening INTRA-CEREBRAL BRAIN ANEURYSM???
(Honestly, the things that fly through your mind!)
But then… as we waited nervously in a clump on the porch for the Police to arrive, Ellie and neighbour Jim (who’d kindly sent out a search party of his own via his Canary Club peeps) watched as a taxi roared round the corner and pulled into Doreen’s driveway.
In disbelief we looked on, as four high-spirited ladies wearing matching blouses piled out of the car, all yakking at once and juggling handbags with platefuls of cookies and sponge cake.
“Pop the hood, if you would kind Sir!” sang Doreen, oblivious to everything except extracting an enormous gold trophy from the boot of the cab.
I remember daughter Ellie looking relieved, as were we all… but at the same time she was fuming that her absent-minded mother had missed yet another valuable council-provided service, wasted everyone’s time and caused a whole lot of bother. Not to mention having the nice police officers in on the act, too!
Apparently winning the tuesday morning Senior Ladies’ ten-pin bowling ’round-robin’ just wasn’t going to cut it this time.
Here’s a lovely story that just randomly popped into my Inbox today. I thought it just too hard to resist so I’m sharing it on here because it’s so gosh darn sweet. PLUS it includes a piccy of a very lick-able ice-cream WIN-WIN!
Hopefully it makes you smile, offers a bit of perspective and then gets you thinking about priorities you might like to re-evaluate within your own life.
And that maybe life’s too short for all the silly stuff?
At the very least, it will leave you wishing you looked as fabulous in a hat, as this beautiful lady.
A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she was legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.
“Oh, I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”
She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.
Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”
Then smiling the whole time, she asked me to remember the five simple rules to being happy:
Free your heart from hatred.
Free your mind from worries.
And you know she’s right. Reminds me of a great saying I heard once: Being HAPPY is not a pursuit – it’s an obligation.
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 !!!
I witnessed the most perfect display of selfless and unconditional love today. An unexpected, yet beautifully-presented scene that just randomly played out before me – in a rotten old Target store, of all places.
And while I’m pleased that I happened upon such a thought-provoking little interlude, I’m also doubly chuffed that I managed to snap a very nice photo of it as well. Working in the aged-care industry, I’ve long since realised the value of capturing the special moments as they come along – no matter how inconsequential they might seem at the time.
A picture is worth a thousand words, don’t they say?
I hope you’ll find this heart-warming photo, which I’ve saved ’til the end of my story (can you bear the suspense?) – worthy of being talked about. Clue: it is.
In the meantime, a picture of some cheeky-looking Galahs to tide you over:
Let me set the scene:
Firstly, and you may not know this, but shopping centres during the week days, transform into what can only be described as the perfect ‘pensioners paradise’!
Yes, indeedy. For while the rest of us are off being dutifully occupied at work or school or whatever, teams of opportunistic Retirees get to roam freely in herd-like fashion throughout the malls. Albeit often a silver-haired, slowwww moving herd – but a herd all the same.
Chatting leisurely with other like-minded Golden-Agers, casually pushing trolleys or towing low-maintenance free-wheeled trolley devices… they get their errands run unhindered, un-flustered and un-pressured. Enjoying the shopping experience at their own pace and without judgement or frowning upon from any of us raucous unruly lot, thank you very much.
Not to mention packing out cafes and teashops to the brim when they’re primed and ready for the proverbial nice hot cuppa – and creamcake too if blood sugar meds allow it.
Fear not though, for by the time we self-appointed important peeps all barrel into the shops and supermarkets to hunt and gather for the family feast, these older folk are long gone. Back at home, unpacked and un-shoed…they’ve completed their quests and are now poised in recliners snoozing, or awaiting the early edition News update on the telly.
Yet, here I found myself, thanks to a late cancellation, breaking all of society’s sacred unwritten rules… I decided to make an impromptu visit to my local shopping centre.
And as I stood in the Toiletries aisle languishing in my glorious mid-morn freedom, deliberating on whether to go the strawberry or the vanilla flavoured lip balm (it’s a tough life), I could hear a softly-spoken male voice at the cosmetics section behind me. Upon changing my angle, I saw it was an older gent with white hair standing alongside what was evidently his matching elderly wife in a wheelchair.
With stiff stooped shoulders and her wasted hands lay motionless in her lap, she clearly had serious health problems (a stroke or maybe MS?). However, that wasn’t an issue for this pair who, oblivious to me and my life-threatening lip balm dilemma, were focused on choosing LIPSTICKS.
And even more fortunately for her, I thought – her husband was doing it spectacularly!
“Honey Beige, Melting Melon, Glazed Caramel… what the heck? Some of these colours, Lois… sound more like food to me. That reminds me, we’ll do the groceries after this”.
Lovely-sounding-hubby was now donning his reading specs in order to decipher the ridiculously teeny tiny writing found on most lippys. A man on a mission and with no shop assistant in sight, he clearly felt at ease in what was typically a woman’s domain. Regardless of her health state, his wife was still a lady and therefore there was no reason in the world why she shouldn’t maintain the beauty regimes that allowed her to feel feminine and ‘normal’.
“Pink Opal… Berry Beauty… Flushed Fuchsia. But they’re ALL pink! There’s just such a lot to pick from, Lois. And I was thinking ‘pink’ was just PINK!”
In my head I had to agree…. STUPID SAME-COLOURED LIPSTICKS!
“Good gracious me, darling… a bit naughty-sounding some of them, might be a bit much?”
I laughed out loud at this comment, nearly blowing my cover but managed to change position while edging closer to the action.
“Here, let’s try this one, Lois. Forever Precious it’s called… that’s definitely you, darling. And it’s such a pretty pink.”
As Lois sat motionless, in her purely supervisory capacity, her adoring spouse crouched down before her to apply yet another shade of pink to the back of his wife’s lifeless hand. They’d obviously been at it for a while because they seemed to have the routine down pat. He would mark her skin for testing, pause to stand back and admire, then discuss yes? Or no? (with himself) before a gentle wipe with the tissue in preparation for the next one.
So, yes by now I was melting on the inside – it was just gorgeous to watch!
“This Smokey Pearl one here… that’ll match your new pink blouse, Lois. The one we bought for Bryce’s graduation. But let’s get the Charming Coral one as well. Just in case, yes?”
Apparently, Lois could speak but it must’ve been only just, as he had to lean his ear right into her face to hear her.
“Ha ha yes! ‘Charming’ – just like me! Ha ha ha… good one, darling”
Brilliant! Lois was being silly too!
“Here’s one…Spiced Coffee. Oh, for goodness sake, Lois! How about we have a think about it all and go get some ‘spiced coffee’ of our own at that nice café over there; they might have some ‘glazed caramel’ we can have for morning tea. What fun!”
As they wheeled off out of the shop, I couldn’t see Lois’s face, but I felt sure she would be smiling and thoroughly enjoying herself. Having such a kind and genuinely loving man by her side, helping her choose lipstick no less.
WHAT MAN DOES THAT?!
And how he spoke to her…. the way he interacted with her! Such patience and grace, the undeniable care and commitment he showed for his dear disabled wife; it was truly truly admirable.
In fact, I had no doubt that Lois, in her sad wheely-bound existence, thanks to this sweet and devoted man – got to smile every single day of her life .
“It’s all fun and games… until someone loses their bladder!”
I’ve noticed lately that a lot of jobs advertised in the Aged-Care sector are now listing ‘sense of humour’ as one of the more desirable personal characteristics required from potential applicants.
Right up there alongside the usual skill-set buzzwords: compassion, empathy… yadda yadda… time-management, communication, etc etc etc it seems that a lot of Care providers are now recognising the merit to be gained in employing Support Workers who are capable of seeing the lighter side of their roles.
Not that we ‘funny-bunnies’ don’t consider our work with older people as meaningful or important. Ahhh no, quite the opposite. In fact, more is the case where those who CAN have a laugh (and don’t feel they have to take everything so seriously all the time), end up with far greater job satisfaction as a consequence of receiving such fabulous positive feedback from their much-amused clients!
Because there’s little doubt how beneficial humour can be when meeting an elderly client – especially for that harrowing first time. Not meaning you need to perform party tricks or stand on your head and act the clown. More just in understanding your client; seizing those unexpected instances as they occur and utilising them to develop a good happy, fun relationship.
You know… tell them the silly story about your wheelbarrow at home with the dicky wheel or how your new kitten got into your knitting bag and found itself tangled in a ball of red yarn under the sofa – and then let them share similar humorous anecdotes with you.
We all know that there’s nothing like a good ol’ laugh to improve overall wellbeing, to strengthen friendships or just to promote a jolly good mood.
So, as a care-worker in your client’s home, merely being observant and discovering what interests your client has, understanding what makes them tick… can make it a heck of a lot easier for you to change tactics if required, and direct your game plan accordingly.
As a coping strategy, too, an intuitive carer should also understand the benefits of how a funny story, or a witty one-liner can be tactfully used to distract an ageing adult who is clearly agitated that you have arrived at their home in the first place. They’ve decided in advance that they won’t like you and therefore will be totally resistant to your charms. No matter what!
“I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP, GIRLIE!”
In my experience, discretely changing the subject, injecting a fresh but genuine perspective into the conversation can diffuse most potential challenging behaviour before it gets a chance to gather momentum.
Just by sharing a refreshingly waggish viewpoint in a senior’s possibly mundane existence can be enough to crack even the hardest of old nuts (yes, a lukewarm smile still counts). Achieve this and you’ll gain trust and win them over before they’ve had a chance to realise how much they actually DO like you after all.
The awkwardness of nudity at shower time is always a good test of a carer’s inter-personal communication skills. But be brave, just chat away and show how you thoroughly enjoy the company of your new NAKED client, ever so much!
In fact, I’m often surprised, how even the most insignificant occurrence or absurdity, can turn a stilted situation into a side-splitting laugh feast in an instant!
Take my new client from yesterday morning: a frail and reluctant 91-year old Gladys Liverspot. Obviously already annoyed and feeling quite indignant that “my-regular-girl-Angie” was not available to help her shower – she’d been informed by the office that she was stuck with me instead.
Oh, I’d attempted to initialise conversation for sure. I was bubbly… yet professional. I showed genuine interest in the brand new kitchen cupboards she’d just had installed. Plus, I’d admired the heck out of her grandson’s never-ending pile of wedding photos (yawwwwwn).
But as we progressed through her showering routine I got nothing back from Gladys. Instead, she seemed damned determined to remain cool and aloof. That is, until it came time to wash her ‘lady parts’ and, as I do, I asked Gladys if she wanted help with that.
“Oh, you mean my Fanny-by-Gaslight!”
Well, that was it! Such a random unexpected thing to hear a little old lady say – I cracked up big time. And blow me down… Gladys clearly LOVED me for it! In fact, she joined in too!
Seemingly, my hysterical response to her quirky turn of phrase was just the reaction Gladys needed to accept me into her world. It showed her that I understood her; that I was on her wave-length. I was someone who could appreciate her inanely dated comment and therefore I was worthy to be part of her day.
Before I left (and still giggling like schoolgirls), I was rewarded with a cup of tea and the ginger crunch slice that Gladys usually reserved for her extra special visitors.
So there, take that, “Regular-girl-Angie”...!!!
Ironically too, there are days where laughing at yourself can be all that keeps you sane. Nothing like putting your foot in it with a slip of the ol’ verbal faux-pas; those unintentional moments when you haven’t thunk before you’ve opened your gob.
Here’s a couple of my finest:
Offering left-arm amputee Sheila Greensleeves to help wipe down her bench top… “Can I give you a hand with that?”
Or saying “Gee that IS a big one!” … the exact same moment Terry Wang drops his tweeds at shower time (I was actually referring to the giant mutant cactus plant towering outside his bathroom window, truly I was)
And just out of habit, to my new and totally bald-headed client, Jim Wiggington…“Are we washing your hair today, Sir?”
As soon as I say them – I cringe. But at the same time, it shows I’m only human and, as unbelievable as it may seem, I make mistakes too. Thankfully, all my clients (thus far) have forgiven me whenever I’ve let slip and more often than not, we end up having a cackle about it as well.
It’s all in the way you handle the situation and anyway, they know it was not intended. I’m just happy that my dear clients can relax enough and feel at ease around me to have a laugh in the first place.
“Oh Dollie, you are a ONE”, they say.
And I guess I am.
Reciprocally, I love those unexpected humorous one-offs that my clients can spring on me, too!
Incidental quips they throw in along the way like an off-the-wall remark that takes you by surprise and makes you realise that being older in years, doesn’t necessarily mean you are any less witty than the rest of us.
And you are most certainly not laughing AT your clients; you are laughing either with them or it’s just the situation at the time when something comical has occurred.
Like the time I was applying skin lotion to the legs of a very fragile and diminutive, Mr Eddie Shuffleboard.
Sitting patiently on the edge of his bed one morning, I squatted down on the carpet in front of Eddie, fiddling about with the pair of most unyielding compression stockings (the bloody things never want to play nice). After several minutes battling away, huffing and puffing all the way, I finally managed to wrench the stockings up and into position on Eddie’s legs.
VICTORY SHALL BE MINE !!
From the sheer exhaustion of it all, I then went to plonk myself on the bed beside him. As I landed on what had to be the world’s most springiest single mattress, like a stunt gone wrong out of Cirque du Soleil… up poor old Eddie went BOINGGGG! Catapulted straight into the air he ended up falling squarely onto my knee in a position similar to a toddler sitting on his mother’s lap.
Then, without missing a beat, Eddie announces with the cheekiest smile on his dial:
“We really have to stop meeting like this, Dollie!”
Surely one of the most hilarious (and perfectly timed) moments I’ve experienced on the job and after chuckling our way through the rest of the shift, it was locked in that Eddie and I were to be bestest of buddies from then on.
So, don’t feel guilty about enjoying the funny side of your client’s antics or worry that you’re being disrespectful or insensitive to their needs…OH MY GOD, YOU DON’T CARRRRRE!
Because of course you do.
And don’t forget, encouraging laughter during a tense or delicate moment can actually offer relief to a fraught pensioner who may find solace in seeing you appear so calm and unflappable.
Embarrassing little interludes too, can have the edge sliced off them with a nifty bit of light relief.
Like the time I went to assist the delightful 94-year old Reggie Windbottom out of his armchair, just as he let rip an extremely loud FART that startled us both and made his trusty Border Collie leap up onto the couch.
“Outside, Wally!” Reg and I both bellowed at the same time (if in doubt, blame the dog).
Oh, how we laughed!
But most of all, and because it reminds me a lot of my own grandfather and the funny stories he used to tell us growing up… I love it how some of my elderly gents (hardly ever the ladies it seems) have a relentless repertoire of good old-fashioned punchlines that they love to rattle off whenever you visit.
For example, here’s a couple of pearlers from 92-year old Dermot O’Funnybone, one of my favourite yarn-spinners. Of course, his Irish accent makes them that much funnier – even better when he has his teeth in!
Did you hear about Bruce who lost his whole left side? He’s all RIGHT now.
What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk.
What time did Bob go to the dentist? Tooth hurt-y.
A mushroom walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender tells him to get out. The mushroom says, “But why… I’m a fun-guy?!”
A blind man walks into a bar….and a table… and a chair… and a door… and and and…
To conclude folks, laughter may not be the best (and only) medicine your elderly companion has to take, but if you can lift spirits by slipping a bit of jocularity into their day, it’s a grand way to start.
As the irrepressible Dermot so eloquently likes to put it: “If you can’t have a good laugh at yourself – then you’re just a miserable old sod!”
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!
What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see? What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me? A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise, Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes? Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply. When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do. And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe? Who, resisting or not . . . … lets you do as you will, With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill? Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see? Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still, As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will. I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother, Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap. Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep. At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own. Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home. A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast, Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone, But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn. At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ’round my knee, Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me. Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead. I look at the future … . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own. And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known. I’m now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel. It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool. The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart. There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells, And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain. And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again. I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast. And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see. Not a cranky old man . Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. …. . ME
– Originally ‘Crabbit Old Woman’ by Phyllis McCormack (1966); adapted by Dave Griffith