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 Aged Care, Exercise, Mobility

ACTIVE AGEING: Helping our Elders, Help Themselves

Let’s let Lettie Fetch her OWN Newspaper!

Every day, our delightful neighbour Lettie-from-across-the-way, walks outside her front door, 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.

It’s just painstaking to see!

Please come back, Grandma!

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 with us 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!”

You want it?
COME GET IT!

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 dam 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.  

For herself.

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!”

Move it – OR LOSE IT!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Elder Abuse, Scamming the Elderly

A Letter to a Scammer

Scams Against the Elderly are Going Unchecked in Our Suburbs

  • Too hard to prove!
  • Too sleazy to catch!
  • Leaving victims too embarrassed & too ashamed to report it!

***************************

Dear ‘Tom’ the Tree Man (or whoever you are this week),

Firstly, thank you for kindly offering your Tree-felling services at the home of an elderly client of mine, Mrs Maria Popalotova, approximately six months ago.

Lovely Maria is a proud but humble, 89-year old Bulgarian-born lady who, although substantially vision-impaired, still lives alone in her large family home, stews her own fruit (from her very own garden) and as the neighbours can testify – sings soprano in FULL voice whilst doing the housework chores. Although suffering a smidge of arthritis and prone to the odd fall (understandable when you’re officially legally blind), she is still mostly independent and in damn good nick for an old girl.

Somehow, Tom, I suspect you may already have known some of this at the time?

In fact, Maria remarked to me not long after meeting you, that it was uncanny when you turned up on her doorstep one day, out of the blue, like you did. Straight after that huge storm we had; the one where horrific winds caused such massive destruction in her area.

Oh, what a godsend you were, Tom!

How else could Maria ever have realised the danger she was in with that large eucalyptus tree in her backyard leaning so perilously close to her bedroom window? 

And, as you so earnestly advised her, it would only take one more big wind like the week before – and it could literally DESTROY HER ENTIRE HOUSE, didn’t you say, Tom?  Crikey, Tom… you told Maria that THIS would happen:

Really, THIS?

And, therefore, it was imperative for Maria’s own safety, as you told her at the time, that the tree be removed IMMEDIATELY.

Oh, and what luck it was, Tom… that Maria had all that cash hidden away on the ledge above the kitchen stove, in her little secret teapot, the pretty white one with the pansies on it. Coincidentally, the precise amount you required to start the job, Tom – exactly $2000. What luck!

And a BARGAIN, you said, considering how the now terrified Maria’s life could literally be at stake if the teetering tree wasn’t removed by Friday. Why, it was pittance, really.

As you said, Tom, it would be foolish (and very “un-Australian”) NOT to pay you! And so she paid you willingly, Tom, because you were just so caring and concerned for her wellbeing.

Which is why Maria understood completely when you ever-so-politely insisted, that you have the cash up front to buy materials NOW.

IT WAS BECAUSE YOU CARED, TOM!

To be honest, finding people that actually do ‘care’ as much as you do, Tom, is pretty thin on the ground these days. Especially after hearing all these dreadful stories about elderly people being scammed by all sorts of dodgy tradesmen and fake utility servicemen. 

Innocent elders who are conned out of money that they’ve saved up during their working lives; nest-eggs for retirement enabling them to enjoy their golden years; or just money set aside for increased medical costs due to the inevitable health issues associated with ageing.

And then there’s the appalling fraudsters, the lowest of the low, who just randomly turn up at people’s doors, unscrupulously offering so-called urgent maintenance of phone, gas or power lines.

Because nobody DARES mess with a potentially broken one of these. 

As a scare tactic – IT’S PERFECT!  

Then there’s the scoundrels posing as contractors who scope out neighbourhoods, watching for lonely and vulnerable older adults who, desperate for company, are more than happy to believe the “nice man” at their front door. 

And that these ‘necessary’ property repairs, such as broken roof tiles, brickwork, cracked concrete paths, driveways or garden maintenance – are absolutely genuine.

Come to think of it, Tom, a bit like the work you offered to do for Maria, wasn’t it?

It’s actually quite sad (and scary) to think that innocent senior citizens living alone are such easy targets to these con artists, merely because they TRUST people. 

Such a nasty world out there, Tom, when you think about it… to know that someone could sink that low?

Nothing dodgy about this van.
No! Not a thing…

And I’m sure it wasn’t your fault you were delayed, Tom. 

As Maria said, you probably had a lot of other work in the area that needed doing, too. In fact, it was only a few weeks back when she said she thought you would return any day now. That you and your little unmarked yellow van would pull into her driveway with all the special equipment needed to get that pesky tree down before it did any major damage.

SHE STUCK BY YOU, TOM!

Even when the contact details on your most professional-looking business card came back with ‘number not in service’…. she still had faith that you’d honour your word. Maria actually worried about you, Tom, and she hoped that nothing bad had happened to you.

Isn’t that sweet?

Funny thing about the big allegedly ‘dangerous’ gumtree, and perhaps you were looking at it from the wrong angle, Tom? But a man from the council came to check it out the other day and confirmed that the it could never have been a threat to Maria’s home. Even if it did fall over – it just wasn’t big enough!

Strange, huh?

Sadly, Tom, in the last month or so, I have noticed a change in dear Maria. She is so much quieter than she used to be; she seems fearful and she’s lost a lot of her confidence and now relys on outside help with her daily routine more than she ever used to.

It’s painful to watch her become this way, Tom – almost as if she has given up on, well… PEOPLE?

Definitely hard to believe she’s the same bubbly lady who once sang (with gusto!) in the shower, bottled her own nectarines and enjoyed social bus trip outings with the local Golden-Agers club. 

Instead she prefers to just stay at home alone.  And just sit. 

Her family now worry because Maria has become so frail and unwell that she can clearly no longer cope by herself. 

Just… heart-breaking.

Anyway, wherever you are, Tom… thanks so much again for all you’ve done.  I heard only last Friday, that Maria’s home had been sold and she has since been re-located into an aged-care facility situated miles away from the life and the people she once knew and loved.

So in the meantime, one question… sorry, Tom. I know you’re such a busy and important man and all…

Would you mind if some devious sleaze-ball did this to YOUR dear old Mum?!?!

We are NOT amused.

Yours in disgust, 

(On behalf of beautiful, broken Maria)

Cheers, Dollie


Posted in Aged Care, Respect

The Wooden Bowl

Just a nice story about Compassion & Respect (and wayward peas!)

“I guarantee you will remember this tale of The Wooden Bowl, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now. It goes like this:

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. Every night, the family ate together at the table.

Unfortunately, the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped his glass, he always spilled milk on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

“We must do something about my father,” said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”

The husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather would eat alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the big table. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. If the dropped the bowl, it would clatter with a loud noise, but at least it would not break.

This went on for some time. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. 

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little wooden bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. 

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. They looked at each other, and felt a cold sensation wash over them. Though no words were spoken, both knew they had acted poorly and needed to take action. 

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

<Author Unknown>

A big ol’ BOWL

“On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things:  a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life’.

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldnt go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.  But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can – happiness will find you.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decisions.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I dont have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.  People love that human touch; holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”

Pesky, trouble-making peas…

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie