Posted in Aged Care, Communication, Working with Elderly

The Goodbye Wave

Feelin’ the Family “Warm Fuzzies”

One of my fondest childhood memories is of our grandparents seeing us off, waving goodbye from their front porch. Smiling contentedly, and without fail at each and every departure time, they’d take up position watching and waving at the top of the steps.

Whether it be the big Sunday family lunch gathering or just a random quick visit to drop off groceries or pick up a bag of lemons from grandad’s garden – it didn’t matter the reason for the visit or how long we were there.  Waving us off was just one of those habitual heart-felt routines that our grandparents performed when it came time to seal the deal and bid us farewell.

Grandma Dollie
(circa 1977)

Of course, that’s after the obligatory round of goodbye kisses, hugs and hair ruffling that seemed to go on forever, before we finally got to bundle ourselves into the car for the ride home.

And I remember too, if we turned around at any stage during our exit, as mum or dad manoeuvred the car down the driveway, that they would still be stood there, happily waving and watching for our return waves through the back window.

Then, as we began slowly to pull away out of view, they’d both sing out in perfect unison:

Bye, bye….LOVE YOU!”

I sometimes wondered, after we had gone, how long they might have remained standing there! Waving away… clinging on to happy times in a now empty front garden.

Lovely too, was that even after the granddads were gone, both my grandmothers continued the waving tradition alone, never missing a beat. As if this treasured practice was integral to keeping the family unit bound and sacred forever.

I was too young to realise then, but it was indeed likely that this cherished ritual be the final thrust in my grandparent’s campaign to squeeze out as much valuable ‘together’ time as they possibly could.

I wish now, in hindsight, that I had waved back a lot, lot harder.

Waving – a universal language
(and especially popular at train stations!)

But, as it delightfully turns out, my grandparents were not the only ‘wavers’ I would ever have the pleasure of!

Thanks to my recent adventures in Aged-Care where I work with elderly adults in their own homes… I have been fortunate to encounter clients on my travels who also conduct a similar performance when it’s time to say goodbye. 

In fact, possibly as a ploy to prolong my visit, some of my clients even go so far as to walk me right out to my car!  I guess old habits die hard and chatting all the way, we discuss the cat’s weepy eye, admire the Azaleas and analyse the weather as we go.

Unfortunately, for some of my less sprightly seniors who have forgotten that their mobility is not as reliable as it once was, I then have to turn round and walk (or wheel) them back inside again! The thought of driving off and leaving a wobbly pensioner on the footpath clinging to their letterbox just doesn’t bear thinking about. So, I don’t mind in the slightest having to spend a bit more time escorting them back to their front doors again.

Besides, it’s a nice little moment that I know will bring a significant amount of joy to someone else’s day. And to be honest, I consider it a compliment that it feels so comfortable for them to think of me wave-worthy in the first place.

“Off we go… let’s get you back inside again, Mr Gadabout!”

Stranded at the letterbox

Why only today, one of my regular ladies, Florence, whom I’ve worked with for a couple of years now, makes it her business to accompany me out onto her front verandah where she likes to wait, waving goodbye as I hop into my car.

Having observed Flo become increasingly more and more absent-minded (her symptoms recently diagnosed ‘most likely’ as Dementia), to her it’s the most natural thing in the world to see me off. The same as she would a visit from any close friend or family member – except that I am neither.

“I’ll see you off, dear. And then I’ll put Walt’s dinner on”.

In my rear-view mirror I see the the nonchalant Florence surveying the rosebushes for dead-heads as she continues her well-rehearsed wave, leaning on the rail for support and so she stays in my sights. Then, just as I reach the end of her drive and I do my return wave back, she looks up at that last second when I’ve straightened up and am about to disappear from her view.

Then, a final flourish with her wrist finishes it all off!

And it’s funny… as I pause for a brief moment to watch her go back inside to peel the spuds (for her husband Walter who died 12 years ago), I’m struck with nostalgic thoughts of warm childhood family times and the ghosts of ‘wavers’ past.

So unexpected are the feelings in fact, that I find I have to stop myself from the involuntary urge to let slip a “Bye-bye….LOVE YOU!”

Awwww… feelin’ it

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Working with Elderly

An Alzheimer’s Poem

Leaving our Loved Ones “Sad and Sick…and Lost”

Every time I visit 82-year old Ruth Cuddlepot I read this poem. 

She has it up on a wall in her kitchen near the toaster, just above the bench.  I know it by heart now because it’s so hard to miss and I stand there every Wednesday reading it (at least three times over) – while I’m waiting for her crumpets to pop!  

It’s a short, but popular verse and most experienced carers have encountered it on their travels in and around the Aged-Care industry. To be honest, I always end up feel annoyed after I’ve read it because as far as describing the hopelessness and grim reality of Alzheimer’s disease – it’s pretty spot on.

It is also completely SAD.

We all know this one, right? 

So, the story goes that back in her day, Ruth Cuddlepot forged for herself (and prospered for many years in) an outstanding career as a Headmistress in some posh private school for boys – at the time the only woman on record to obtain such a role.  She never married, didn’t have children and had no real family to speak of.  Therefore, a very well-to-do Ruth had mountains of cash and high-performing investments squared nicely away for that one ‘rainy day’ when she just might need it. 

That drab, dreary, drizzly day came a few years back when Ruth received the official crushing diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Being the no-nonsense insightful person that she was however, Ruth decided immediately that she would face her destiny head-on and set herself up for the inevitable; for when she could no longer work or take care of herself.  

Indeed, there would be NO nursing home for Principal Ruth Cuddlepot! 

Without wallowing in self-pity and in typical Ruth fashion, she seized control to ensure her affairs were arranged down to the very teensiest detail. The health services, neurologists, an endless supply of support workers and the most fastidious fleet of solicitors were all put in place so Ruth could be completely looked after and cared for IN HER OWN HOME.

No matter what.  

She knew her condition would deteriorate; that her memory would crumble, and she would eventually “lose my marbles completely!”  Apparently, that’s how Ruth used to brazenly declare it, although I didn’t know her then and have relied on verbal reports from other carers to fill me in on all the background reading. 

Needless to say, she was one very smart woman. Although,by the time I had the pleasure of caring for the well-respected Ruth Cuddlepot, she was no longer the organised and efficient educator I had been told she once was. 

Ruth had, instead, evolved into ‘Ruthie’.  

And thanks to the personality-morphing Alzheimer’s, Ruthie had become a frail, yet openly happy and affectionate elderly woman…. WHO LOVED TO HUG! 

Even when her speech faltered, Ruthie could at least continue to communicate with a nice big welcoming embrace whenever I arrived for my shift.  I looked forward to it in fact!  

There she would be, perched in her favourite place on a big comfy chair in front of her enormous lounge room windows. The spot where she had the wonderful view of her ever-changing garden, the birds flying by to say hello… and where she could keep a watchful eye out for her next visitor whom she could throw her arms around and give a great big hearty squeeeeze to!

Really if it wasn’t so heart-breaking, it would be lovely.

Ruthie at her window...
 – waiting for the next hug-ee!

Recently though, Ruthie had started calling me Wendy.  

Which is fine by me, because you can imagine it happens a lot in this line of work (I’m also known as Debbie, Louise and Margie with some of my other cognitively-challenged clients). Let’s face it, remembering each of your carers’ name, rank and serial numbers is understandably not high on the priority list for some seniors.

Especially when they no longer know their OWN name!

I knew something had started to change in Ruthie when one day – the hugs stopped.  And another cruel stage of the Alzheimer’s curse set in… Ruthie Cuddlepot started to become aggressive.

Without much warning her moods became erratic and it eventuated that Ruthie couldn’t STAND to be touched.  Not even a handshake or a gentle pat on the shoulder.  You just wouldn’t dare in case she would flare up and start screaming and punching the air (or anything else within proximity) in what appeared to be the ultimate frustration within Ruthie’s muddled-up mind. 

This most heartless and indiscriminate Dementia had finally taken hold of her … it has been just awful to watch.

Finally, after accusations that Ruthie had started slapping and pushing her carers, we were told there was a serious incident last week where she had to be whisked away by ambulance and sedated in hospital.  

Quite honestly, it became apparent to us all, that they didnt know WHAT to do with her!

After all Ruth’s organising, having purposely prepared herself and her future to remain forever being tended to in her own home by an army of paid care-working bees and service providers, it now seemed this was no longer a viable option.  

I wonder now looking back, how Ruthie could have possibly planned for this final gloom-ridden stage of her illness?

Perhaps she’d anticipated that by this late phase: 1) she wouldn’t know where she was, and 2) she wouldn’t care? I hoped so for her sake.

The poem was right, and the best of Ruth had gone.  And sadly yes, we had failed in standing beside her.  Basically, it had become too unsafe to do so!  Poor Ruthie had become a danger not only to herself, but to everyone else as well.  And if a support worker is under any threat whilst looking after a client in in their home, then the people in charge needed to move to an ulterior arrangement.  

I was informed only today that the once proud and brilliant Ruth Cuddlepot had been relocated ‘indefinitely’ into a High Care facility.  

Just like the poem had foretold she was now sad and sick and lost.  Her beautiful forward-thinking mind now full-to-capacity on sensory-depriving medication to keep her comatose and manageable (for her own protection, we were told).

I have deliberated greatly about going to visit Ruthie but honestly, what would be the point? And without sounding totally selfish – I don’t think I could bear it.  

The worst part is finding out she doesn’t even have a window.

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie

Posted in Fashion, Working with Elderly

Can You Tell a Man’s Age by the Height of his Trousers?

We love you, Harry-High-Pants!

My elderly neighbour, Ivy recently shared with me this gorgeous black&white of her hubby Robert wearing a dress-up costume his mother made for him when he was just a young lad.

Whilst not sure of the exact year, Ivy believes it to be sometime during the 1940’s “when The War was on and we had to make do with what we had”.

SEE HERE…….. (couldn’t you just DIE?)

You started it, Superman!

Adorable as it most definitely is, it’s hard not to miss the extremely elevated pair of buckled-up underpants that Superman, aka Robbie (aged 5), is sporting in the photo.

Gee, the poor kid had no chance!

It explains too, why the now 87-year old Rob clearly has no qualms with wearing his trousers as high as an elephant’s eye to this very day.  Undoubtedly, it’s what he grew up with, feels comfy in and it’s just how he (and Superman) were raised.

Which is fair enough when you consider the fashions of the time.  Their time.  Back in the day with all the big screen stars: Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck & co – all swanning about, gushing masculinity (well, most of the time) and looking suave as all heck in their tall tweeds. So naturally, the trend for the common man about town, was to do likewise and don a stylish pair of pleated high-waisted pants just like their dapper Hollywood idols.

And always with a robustly purposeful belt.

To be fair, I’m not sure if Rob’s always worn his trou so alarmingly aloft or whether, since morphing into ‘retiree’ status, it’s been more out of necessity due to the changes in his body-shape.

Regardless, I can’t help but smile when I catch sight of him over the back fence, digging away obliviously in the vege patch with his oversized corduroys yanked up nice and snug.  There’s just something endearing… a special ‘grandfather’ appeal, that brings on warm family memories and makes you almost feeeel the love.

You know?

Who wouldn’t wanna look this fashionably fab?

Indeed, the ageing process (and the heartless science that supports it) has a lot to answer for.

We tick merrily along minding our own business and before you know it, TING….you’ve arrived unwittingly at the mature, sensible-shoed stage of life.  Then, before you can say “pass the lamingtons please”… our once lithe and limber waistlines have become noticeably thickened.

Or in some cases, they’ve disappeared completely eeek!

Because fat is harder to budge like it was in the slinky, middle-aged career-building years when there was a lot of rushing about to be had.  Subsequently, with slowed-down metabolism from too much sitting about making shopping lists and tut-tutting about the youth of today, an elder’s torso can evolve into what’s considered ‘portly’ or become barrel-like instead.

Some older blokes (much like our Robert), take on this new physical development fairly positively, thank goodness.  They’re just relieved to be able to meld their newly created fatty layer into a nice protruding paunch.  Then, if they’re any good, they’ll find it enables them to wrench trousers up over this new formation like a natural built-in hitching post, if you will.

Alternatively, you’ll find other elderly gents may opt to ignore this ‘battle of the bulge’ by tightly clasping their belts in from underneath,  allowing one’s belly to flop leisurely out over the top of the belt-line yet still in the vicinity of where they think their waist should, by golly, still be.

Either way, win-win?

Hitch ’em up, Charlie!

Furthermore, while we are busy increasing in age and much worldly wisdom, our bodies start to progressively dwindle in muscle mass as well.  Crikey, can it get any worse?

Meaning the once sexy and toned definition we all once aspired to (and strived like ninnies our entire lives for), begins to diminish. Add to that a lessening bone density, then watch in awe as we then begin shrinking in height, thanks to our body basically collapsing into itself.

Yes, you heard…. COLLAPSING.

Throw in the nicely rounded butt that’s served a chap all his years, literally upping and disappearing almost overnight.  For goodness sake, it’s basically just a complete anatomical reversal of the changes that happened during puberty that turned us into adults in the first place!

But wait… THERE’S MORE!

Eventually, after a lifetime of all this standing about looking fabulous and ‘being a man’ (and when he’s finally admitted defeat and accepted this appalling entity of Retirement) a bloke’s spine now starts to buckle and bend until his body is baggy and saggy and then lo and behold, before he knows it…his bloody pant bottoms are now dragging on the ground.

WELL, BUGGER ME!

All that being said, and maybe because it happens so gradually, the changes in an older man’s stature can often go unrecognised.  Which means most of my male clients are happy as Larry continuing blithely on wearing the same trousers they’ve had, like, for-EVER.

Amusing though, are some of the excuses I hear from these denying Larries:

“Well, Dollie, I’ve worn these slacks since that Armstrong lad walked on the moon and never had any bother with them”

“Top quality pants these, not like the cheap foreign rubbish you get in the shops now”

“These trousers have lasted me 36 years as a copper on the beat, so why would I go changing them now?”

Besides, the focus now as it is for many adults of advanced years, is less on how they look in their clothes, than on more pertinent issues such as the managing of increasingly frequent health issues, the price of bread or more essentially… what the weather is doing tomorrow.

Can you can really judge a man’s age
by how far up his britches sit?

No!  Of course you can’t actually determine a man’s age based solely on how up-lifted he prefers to position his trousers!

Ageist, much?

Why, to do so would be the beginnings of a slippery discriminatory slope found insulting by most older adults (the blokes in particular) and which nowadays, is considered quite unsavoury. However, for those of you playing along at home, it’s certainly easy to spot the more senior boys when they do yank ’em up so excessively.  Out and about in the community, bustling along with great purpose and leaving no room for doubt that the higher the pant – the more important their mission.

Be it a morning stroll to buy the newspaper or heading off with wheeled trolley in tow for a lap of the shops, or maybe another load of library books.  It doesn’t matter the quest, just as long as his dungarees are tugged up securely and with as much altitude as practicable.

So, if you’re one of these elderly dudes with The Incredible Shrinking Body who’s looking to correct the state of his seemingly enlarged trousers in a fashionable, yet dignified manner – it seems you have limited options:

  • Revive an old trend and use suspenders to hold up your pants (eliminates that poofy, puckered effect of a tightly clenched belt)
  • Admit defeat and consider wearing a sarong-type garment to emphasise your cultural side. Or maybe fly free n easy in a Scottish kilt for that ‘European-and-I-canny-care’ look?
  • Give the modern-day track pant a whirl (built in elastic totally eliminates the belt dilemma)
  • Face facts and get your pants altered by a tailor (or a wife if you still have one)
  • Stop being a tight-fisted bastard and splash out on some new slacks that fit you properly!

Or, if none of these appeal and you couldn’t care less about where your waistline might have run off to… then hoist those sails high, my good fellow, and continue blissfully wearing your trustworthy gabardines of yesteryear.

Who gives a toot what these young whipper-snappers say, as they swagger about with bum-cracks hanging out of their low-slung designer denims?!  You go right ahead and jack your nipple-cinching pantaloons up to your armpits if you fancy… right where they so magnificently belong.

All I know is, when I arrive at a new client’s home and I’m greeted at the door by yet another stereotypically-attired senior with his shirt tucked firmly into his slacks (or sometimes a pair of no-nonsense walk-shorts on warmer days) hoisted above and beyond, almost to chest height… for some reason it just makes me want to be even nicer.

NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

Modern-day Superman 
Riding a lot lower (phew!)

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie