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My Blog

Working with the elderly

Good morning to all.  I am sitting here today looking out the window at  a very gloomy day and yet the birds are still chirping and twittering away.  It is always so uplifting to me to hear those melodic sounds from those sweet creatures.  I have set up a system outside of my kitchen window where  I have raised up a long, large flower box with netting wrapped over the top and  the bottom of the planter sits on the top.  I have a brick in the center to hold it down...there are bricks inside as well to keep it from falling off the ledge.  Each day I fill the tray with treats for the birds..all types of seed which bring many varieties to the window.  I have suction cup hangers which hold thistle bags, and there is a long wire container filled with peanuts for the woodpeckers.  There is a wire wrap contraption hanging as well for orange slices for the orioles.   I love seeing them come to the feeder.  I get to see them up close and personal.  I find great joy in taking care of some of God's creatures.  It is amazing to me how well most of them all get along.  What is most amazing is when the cardinals come and the male will often share with the female.  I love to see when the babies come with their mothers.  A great example of natural nurturing. 
I decided to write today about the elderly.  Yesterday, I was invited to an open house at the Sunrise center that I story tell and teach art at.  I must say that I am impressed with their concerns for their patients...which in this case, all have Alzheimer's..  I sat and listened, looked and watched.  It brought back the past for me in so many ways and on so many levels.
Looking back in  my life...I was raised by my Grandmother because my mother was a single parent and had to work.  I lived with Grandma my whole life until I married.   Even after I married my Grandmother and I were inseparable.  We must have talked on the phone at least a dozen times a day.  We would talk about what she was doing, what I was doing, abut recipes, the children.  Often I would call her to tell her to turn on a particular channel on the TV if there was a program on that she might like to watch, like a Big Crosby movie or a Shirley Temple movie.  It always seemed to be natural for me to be with the elderly.  
When I was 12 years old, we had a someone come from St. Joseph's nursing home which was in Chicago on Fullerton and Sheffield to our school.  They asked for volunteers to come in to help.  Well, needless to say...I was one of the volunteers.  On Saturdays, I would get on the Fullerton Ave. bus and ride it the 30 minutes or so to the home.  I started out washing and cleaning the bedpans, cleaning rooms, talking to the patients, and eventually was given the job of doing arts and crafts with the residents.  Back then it was pretty simple.  A day's work that made you feel good when you left at the end of the day.  I remember how hard it was for me back then to return on another day and find that a residents room was empty. They had  passed away during the week.  I felt very lost at those moments, having spent time with them and not being able to say goodbye. 
I remember back even further when I was in Girl Scouts and was I a Junior Scout.  We went to a nursing home in Chicago with these small baby food jars that we had decorated and had filled with candy and walked around the nursing home  and sang Christmas Carols up and down the hall.  The people would come out of their rooms and greet us and we would hand them a jar of candy.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  There was a door open and no one had come to the door.....and nosey me...I went in thinking perhaps they couldn't walk to the door...only to find this lady who had evidently just passed away.  I thought about how sad that was.  Here we were, singing and feeling joyous, when someone was all alone in her last moments of life.  I don't think I will ever forget how I felt in that moment. 
Some odd 50 some years later, I am still working on some capacities with the elderly.  I find them full of wonderful stories.  When they are given the time to go back and tell stories of their childhoods, I cannot help but identify with them.  On some levels, somewhere, we are all the same.  We are all born with hopes and dreams.  We all have wishes as desires.  I hear them tell stories of their childhood, their child raising, their grandchildren.  they speak of teachers and school days.  They speak of vacations and adventures.  When you take the time to be with someone who is elderly, it is like sitting with a computer in front of you.  You can hear instead, the stories of the past only with a light hat no computer can emit.  A special glow happens when an older person speaks.  It is as though they feel important and special at that moment. So special because someone wants to listen, and better yet...that their stories are told for themselves to hear again. 
Life continues on and hopefully we all are given the opportunity to reach the age when we are known as the elderly.  For with that, comes all the stories of joy and happiness, sorrow and disappointments, experiences beyond measure.  It means we have lived a full life. 
My hope is that there will still be a soft spot in hearts of children and people who will reach out and touch or just sit and listen. 
We live a lifetime filled with moments that should and need to be shared.  When you go to a 3D movie you are given special glasses so you might see a different dimension of that show.  Think of how exciting and special seeing those special effects are.  Well, we are all given those special glasses at birth...it is called our hearts...when you are with someone who is elderly, allow you glasses to see them in 3D....look at them as more than just the elderly...see them for who they really are in 3D....where they have been and what they have done....if their life stories were on the screen..you would be paying good money to see them...their stories are in the here and now for free.  Make some popcorn, maybe have some raisonettes, sit back with them and enjoy the storyline they have to give. You won't ever regret it.   

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