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.
Every day, our delightful neighbour Lettie-from-across-the-way, walks outside her front door, slowly down the steps and across the driveway to collect her newspaper from wherever it has landed on her front lawn. It’s usually in the same spot every morning, give or take, depending if the delivery boy gets his projectile right and doesn’t instead end up riding his bike into the bushes!
(Three years on, you’d think he’d have this sorted by now).
On her way back towards the house, with mission accomplished and with paper stuffed purposefully under the wing of her arm, Lettie then likes to pause and glance over the neighbourhood. She pretends to pick a bit of dead something off the Hydrangea bush at the bottom of her steps, then ambles cautiously back inside to (most likely) put her feet up from a job well done.
But it’s just painstaking to see!
Nearing 94-years old, living alone and with seriously swollen ankles from kidney disease, ‘a bit of the diabetes’ and being almost totally blind thanks to advanced macular degeneration, Lettie has slowed down significantly in the last couple of years.
We know this because we have quite literally witnessed the progressive decline in Lettie’s mobility thanks to our lounge room windows facing directly opposite hers.
Needless to say, you can pretty much set your clock to Lettie’s daily paper-pick-up ritual. Unfolding before us almost like a big-screen movie, we get to watch all Lettie’s comings and goings – as she does ours. Which is actually kind of nice being that it offers a warm fuzzy familiar feeling to let you know all is right with the world.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch!
“Once I’ve had my weeties and taken all my tablets, it’s time to do the morning dash!”
Ummm, less of a DASH… more of an action replay stuck in serious slow-motion?! Thankfully, Lettie enjoys joking that it takes her sooooo long and that tomorrow morning she’s thinking about packing a picnic lunch and making a day of it.
“I’ve got all day – may’s well take a cream bun and enjoy myself at the half-way mark!”
Awkwardly steering her wheelie-walker to the top of the steps, our hearts are in our mouths as her front wheels teeter close to the porch edge. Applying the brakes, just in the nick of time, Lettie then grapples her way down the steps in lunging fashion, by means of the metal railing installed by her family a few years back.
She then shuffles… barely lifting her puffy, slippered feet… across the driveway to the edge of the lawn where she then stops, statue-still with hands on hips, to peer at the grassy expanse before her.
Eventually, depending on the angle of the sun and the landing position of the newspaper on that particular day, Lettie is usually able to perceive enough colour contrast to make approximate visual contact with her printed prize.
Ah yes! There’s actual science involved, don’t you know?
However… if the paper has made touch-down on the driveway instead of the lawn, poor legally-blind Lettie has NO CHANCE of finding the thing!
As I guilefully explain to my pre-teen son, the grey-ness of the concrete doesn’t make the off-white coloured newspaper ‘pop’ like the bright green-ness of the grass does.
Lettie then ambles her way across the lawn and upon reaching her quest, snap-bends in half to scoop up the cellophane-sealed roll in a one-motion move. Turning stiffly, she then pauses to gaze at the street around her (more to have a rest than to actually ‘look’ at anything), before tottering her way back onto the driveway, then slowwwwwwly on towards the front steps.
It can be a good 20 minutes by the time Lettie has hauled herself up the steps to the security of her wheelie-walker at the front door, during which time I have hung out a load of washing, ironed the school uniforms, yelled at the kids and fed the cat!
My enthralled son can stand watching this senior’s snail-paced performance NO LONGER.
“Man! Can’t we just go pick it up for her, Mum?”
“Oh no, absolutely NOT, my child!”
Then, chuffed that I get to impart my Aged-Carer’s industry knowledge on somebody (anybody will do) I then proceed to explain that as long as Lettie is able to collect her newspaper for herself – then let her WE MUST.
And that regardless of Lettie’s diminished eyesight and her age-related health issues, it was important for Lettie, if she wanted to remain living independently in her own house, that she be able to do boring household chores such as this.
I also knew, from conversations with her daughter Sue, that Lettie had very little other physical activity going on in her day. Sue therefore felt it crucial that her mother be encouraged to continue this one daily routine, this one small piece of exertion, in order to keep blood flowing, muscles moving, her mind stimulated and hopefully result in a much better quality of life for Lettie all round.
For the meantime, Lettie could exist alone at home feeling good about herself and know that she was maintaining independence, her self-respect and the satisfaction that she still (mostly) had control over her own future.
And that’s a really super important thing when you’re an elderly person, as I explained to my son (who oddly, has always been quite fascinated with Lettie’s newspaper antics).
“But what does she want a paper for anyway… I thought she was BLIND????”
I remember at the time staring blankly at Junior aware that with this last line of inquiry, he had actually stated the ‘blindingly’ obvious. And as the wave of realisation washed over me… I thought it might be a good idea to give Sue a call for a bit of a chat.
“Nobody likes a smarty-pants, darling. Go let the cat out!”
Knocking on the front door of a newly-assigned elderly person’s home for that very first time is always an anxious few seconds, but understandably even more nerve-racking if you are a newbie to this ‘caregiver’ caper.
In fact, I recall many years ago the day of my first shift ever… standing at the top of the steps, staring at a stranger’s doorbell (of someone I would shortly be helping undress for their shower) and wondering if it was not too late to turn and run for the hills!
What if they don’t like me?
What if I run out of time?
WHAT IF I DO IT WRONG?!?!
I remember, too, thinking how I hadn’t really been forewarned on the reality of what to expect when arriving at a sceptical senior’s house for our first meeting. I knew that I needed to be confident and professional in order to gain trust, but it turned out to be instinct I relied on to provide my client with a warm friendly vibe, that put them at ease. I wanted them to know that not only was I was good at my job, but that I was a genuinely kind, empathetic person – and that I CARED too!
Luckily for me, my first client was the most adorably grateful, yet desperately frail gent who didn’t give a toot that I was the new kid on the block. He was just so relieved to have me there.
Which I guess at the end of the day is what it’s actually all about… THEM.
And NOT me.
So, I thought it might be helpful to list some essential, yet often over-looked pointers, to ensure the initial meet ‘n’ greet with your new client is as successful as it can possibly be. That brief, but impressionable moment where you get to reveal your amazing self and to plant the seed for a future mutually beneficial and respectful working relationship.
Appearing at your client’s door with the cheeriest, beaming-est face you can muster, will often be enough to knock the wind out of a potentially grumpy or resentful elder’s sails.
Include a hearty ‘smile’ in your voice as well, which should nip any bad temper in the bud before they’ve had a chance to remember what they were cross about in the first place!
Trust me, it works a treat – and what have you got to lose?
2. Use formal address – ALWAYS
Make a promise to yourself as an accomplished carer, to always use your client’s official title – especially for that initial intro:
“Hello, Mrs Picklehead, how are you today?“
Older generations were bought up believing that this is the ultimate sign of respect – and it’s never to be messed with. If you are unsure of their marital status (you will come across the odd hard-nut spinster out there who’s never married and who will soon let you know if you dare to assume she’s a Missus) – in this case, it’s best to opt for the full name approach:
“Good morning… Marjorie Jackhammer, is it?”
And as daunting as it may seem, you should always attempt to pronounce your client’s surname, regardless of how tricky it might look on paper. That’s including the culturally curly ones that contain just about every letter in the alphabet – including all five vowels TWICE.
I will never forget standing outside Mrs Gina Kantezkantopituolos’s door in a cold sweat at the thought of insulting her by ballsing up her name and having her hate me forever. She actually confided in me later that she’d appreciated me having a try (as feeble as it was) because others never even bothered. For that reason, she’d eventually become known as ‘Mrs K’ just to save a fuss.
“For efficiency’s sake”, she’d always say.
Ultimately, ‘Gina’ and I got on so famously she insisted I call her by her first name anyway. Phew…problem solved.
3. Introduce yourself
You’ll discover as you become more experienced and worldly, that some of your more dependant or unwell clients may have a whole army of carers, case workers, nurses, health professionals, specialists and home support people coming and going on any given day of the week – and sometimes ALL AT ONCE.
So to avoid confusion or client embarrassment it is vital that you clearly state your name, rank and serial number when you meet for the first time. That is before you launch into your work.
Also, say where you are from and what you intend to do to them!
There is nothing worse than arriving with your bucket and mop to do a domestic cleaning duty only to discover your client has since stripped off down to her petticoat in anticipation of having her wound dressing changed by whom she thought was the District Nurse instead.
Not that that’s ever happened to me.
No! Not at all, she said.
4. Confirm that your client UNDERSTANDS you
This is not as silly as it sounds. And an accomplished careworker can determine a lot about someone who appears to be hard of hearing or can’t comprehend what is happening (and has no idea what you are babbling on about.)
You’ve got several logical explanations:
your client is hearing impaired (the logical and most common one)
your client is from a non-English speaking background
your client is sick
your client is cranky and in a very, very, very bad mood (is it too late to run away?)
The answer for all of these situations is to slow your speech down, maintain eye contact and modify your voice and tone accordingly. You can find out later on (when you are friends) what the real story is.
Use hand actions if you need to and don’t be afraid to YELL. I can spend entire days bellowing at elderly clients who have deafness issues only to get home at the end of the day and continue the trend with my family… aren’t they lucky!
5. Compliment your Client
One of the best bits of never-fail advice I can offer all budding carers (or for anyone trying to be accepted by someone new) is that you need to find something about your new client to compliment them on.
It could be that the buttons on their cardigan are sweet, you just love the colour of their blouse, they’re wearing a pretty-coloured lipstick or they’ve had a haircut and are looking exceptionally spruced-up.
Or… if you’re really struggling to find something nice to say about your client, then admire the lovely photo of their grandchildren, the enormous ceramic vase in the lounge room, the beautifully manicured lawn or the fabulous blooms on the Camelia bush.
Whatever, doesn’t matter.
Most mature-agers feel proud and pleased with themselves when they are told they have something that others might appreciate or find attractive. It has huge impact and lets them know their contributions are still valued and more importantly – that they are people, too!
And it’s a superb way to break the ice and show that you at least seem interested in them. Who knows, you might even CARE for goodness sake.
6. Acknowledge your Client’s Spouse
As an observant caregiver, it’s important to be aware that your new client may live with a husband, wife (or other family member such as a partner, son, daughter, niece etc). These onlookers can offer valuable insight on the person whom you may be about to help shower or spend time with in, say, a Respite capacity while their regular family caregiver has some time away from the house.
It is in your best interests, therefore, to butter-up these people and get them ‘on side’. They have a whole plethora of useful information about their parent, grandparent or great-aunty Doris which will make your job significantly smoother if you take heed of it; information that you won’t find on the Care Plan or in the medical notes.
When you take Uncle Reg on his walk to the library… he loves going via the paddock so he can say hello to the horses. He needs to stick to this routine or he will get quite upset and then we will ALL pay later tonight!
Mum only likes using the pink towels… never the green ones as they were (deceased) Dad’s towels and she will get upset if you try and use them during her shower.
Little stuff like that, but it’s important stuff. And it’s stuff that will help you develop a good healthy rapport and eventually, a trusting relationship with your client AND with their live-in family.
7. Acknowledge Pets
A mistrustful senior will literally GLOW when you show interest in their animals and I can guarantee you, without hesitation… they will instantly adore any visiting carer who does this.
I’ve broken down many a barrier by patting the mangiest of dogs, admired weepy-eyed cats and even whistled at the odd tatty budgie in its cage.
Fake it til you make it, don’t they say? It’s definitely worth it in the end, so do whatever it takes to gain your elder’s approval.
Rub the tummy of flea-bitten ‘Ol Yella and say something silly to the cat – you’ll win over the faith of your brand new judgemental client… and you can disinfect yourself in the car later!
8. LISTEN to your Client
Every aged-careworker knows that communication is what it’s all about. Speaking yes, but possibly more importantly: LISTENING.
So when you’ve rattled off your initial intro, make sure you take the time to hear what your new client has to say in response. And if their speech is slow or they are struggling to get words out (for whatever reason) DON’T be tempted to talk over them or pre-empt their sentences. Show patience and be respectful in what they are telling you. Be open-minded and NEVER make judgement.
Sounds a bit like the Ten Commandments really…Thou shalt not pass judgement on thine old lady client!
Let’s face it; most of this is common sense.
An astute and qualified carer should be able to evaluate a lot about their new ageing client in that initial meeting at the door. Body language, the way they talk, their hearing and vision, their coordination and mobility – all can reveal potential physical health problems, mental conditions or emotional issues.
And all are clues that are handy for you to be aware of even before you’ve entered their home.
Take note of bloodshot or droopy eyes, the condition and colour of their skin, breathlessness, disorientation or confusion, complaints of pain and weakness can all mean something is not right and as their carer you will need to investigate further. If only to pass it on by reporting your observations to a supervisor for follow-up which may then lead to further assessment or review.
Unfortunately, not only can you hear and see signs, but you can smell them too.
Take note of cigarette smoke, gas, alcohol, rotting food odours (ick) or stinky human excrement smells (double ick) … these are just a few indications of the way your beloved senior lives and that there may or may not be serious health problems afoot.
10. You’re In!
Well done! Superb job!
You’ve passed the probing and interrogation stage and your shiny new client has allowed you to enter their world.
It’s now up to you to maintain your exemplary high standard of caring and strong positive work ethic. Enjoy getting to know your most-recent companion, but remain vigilant and remember there are professional boundaries. And don’t be tempted to cut corners – because it will most definitely bite you on the bum later.
Work hard, and always have pride in being able to provide a service to people who need your help if they intend on staying in their own homes. And who on the most part, are actually very, very, very pleased to see you.
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!