Sister to Sister: Mama’s K.I.S.S. #41–Cleaning for Elderly

imagesThis one’s fairly obvious, but it has multiple benefits. if you find an elderly person who needs help with housekeeping and then take your children over to clean for a couple of hours, you’re doing several important things at once:

  1. You’re better equipping your kids to clean their own houses. This is training that will save you, their mom, time in the long run because you will have housekeeping helpers.
  2. You are helping the elderly person in a big way. Old bones, eyes, hands  and muscles often aren’t able to even keep a place sanitary, much less neat and orderly.
  3. You are preparing your daughters to be the kind of wives and homemakers that will bless the lives of their husbands one day.
  4. Unlike some of our suggestions, this one will likely be a grungy job—the kind of job that makes for humility and instills the spirit of each esteeming others better than self (I Cor. 10:24).
  5. The influence of elderly Christians is almost always beneficial to children. Just the time spent in that home will have an effect on your kids, for good.
  6. If you invite other children to go clean with you and your own children, you will be impacting those young hearts for the Lord, too.

Don’t forget the March podcast is this Thursday night. Holly Smith will be joining me. Details are on the “Digging Deep in God’s Word” Facebook page. It’s a great study of the weeping prophet and the persecution that discouraged this great man of God.

 

Sister to Sister: Dear Caregiver…

images-2Dear Caregiver,

I saw you trying to talk your mother into wearing that hearing device for worship. Nothing doing, though.  I saw you pick up the song book when she dropped it…and then the Bible.

I saw you shhhhushing your father when he talked out loud during the communion. I saw you discreetly wipe the grape juice spill from his tie.

I saw you holding your child, the one who was born so prematurely…the one who can’t hold his head up and who has that loud congested pattern of breathing. I saw you just look down at him and smile when someone sitting in front of you stared back toward you out of sheer (and rude) curiosity.

I saw you entertaining your Down’s child while all the other children were in their classes.

I saw you marching those six ‘spic’ foster children down the aisle to your pew—the pew with all of the coloring books and kids “sermon sheets” scattered everywhere. I saw you apologizing to Sister Jones when she gave you that speech about how we have a cry room for children who are disturbing the service.

I saw you weep a little when your aged mother struggled to reach the notes for “In the Sweet By and By,” but did not miss a syllable of the words in any of its verses.

I saw you unfolding the walker, pushing the wheelchair, and wiping noses and drools. I saw you picking up dropped things– pills, pieces of food, and conversations.

I heard you laughing about old times with people who can well remember those, although they can seldom remember what happened five minutes ago.

Then I saw you at home— washing sheets and sorting socks, changing diapers and crumbling cornbread into glasses of buttermilk. I saw you cleaning toilets, scrubbing dentures, burning trash, raking leaves, carting off fallen branches, and cleaning out gutters. I saw you carry in that new mattress by yourself and I saw you getting out that ladder to change out light bulbs. I watched you wash curtains, patios and cars.

You are one of the few women that I’ve ever seen washing feet in the real “service” sense of washing feet; you were washing them for people who can no longer reach their feet.

I saw you at the ER, the clinic, the pain center and the pediatrician’s office. I saw you in the hospital room, the waiting room, the therapy room, and the nursing home room. I’ve passed you in the retirement center, the trauma center, and the homeless shelter. I’ve seen you feeding, reading, treating and pleading. I’ve seen you laugh because the other alternative is crying and I’ve seen you cry when you are too tired to laugh any more.

I’ve seen you treating pain when your own pain must surely be, at least, comparable and I’ve watched  you clean someone else’s house that was already cleaner than the one you live in.

I know your husband and your children, too. I know that they often miss you, but that someone has taught them to be unselfish, too, and so they are content to support you as you care for others.

I see your suitcase that rarely ever gets put in the closet. I’ve seen your Delta credit card statement and your frequent flyer miles statements. You accumulate them quickly and then use them up going the same route for which you accumulated.

I’ve seen your pocketbook that has your checks and bank statements and someone else’s, too. I’ve seen you file two sets of tax forms, mow two yards, stock two pantries and keep the oil changed in two cars.

I know you sometimes are reimbursed for expenditures, but I also know that’s not always the case. I understand that some expenditures of emotion and time and stress are not reimburse-able. You don’t get reimbursed for the nights of sleep you lost rocking that baby or for the back pain you experienced during and after lifting that elderly gentleman. You don’t get reimbursed for the humiliation you suffered when the dementia kicked in and your mom, who has never used a curse word in her life, yelled obscenities at you in the foyer before worship. You don’t get any payback for sleep lost in the middle of the night when a child is sick or frightened or for the panic that ensues when you can’t reach your elderly parent. You don’t get reimbursed for time lost looking for things lost: hearing aid batteries, telephones, post office box keys, reading glasses, sippy cups, pacifiers, medications…even cars in parking lots.

I’ve noticed that you really do enjoy what you do because you really love that person who is so utterly dependent on you. But I also can’t help but notice that sometimes your job is not pretty. Sometimes it’s embarrassing… sometimes smelly…and always demanding.

I’m proud of you, though, because in all the situations, you keep learning. You’ve learned how to use Pampers or Depends, Orajel or Polident, Gripe Water or Miralax, video monitors or blood pressure monitors, high chairs or lift chairs, developmental therapy or occupational therapy and walkers or…well…walkers. You’re spending your time waiting –praying–for things to develop and grow, or watching–praying–while they fade away and fall out.  It really is a circle of life. Helpless to helpless we go in the natural course of this life.

But sweet and very strong Caregiver, you do what you do, not because you have to do it…not even because you know it may be necessary for someone to do it one day for you. Look around. Not everyone who could be caring for a loved one IS caring. Not everyone who will one day need the care is giving it today. There are many people who ultimately need care before they ever stop to give care. You, on the other hand, are one of many irreplaceable people who gives some of yourself every day to make life happen for people who just can’t go it alone…people who are valuable, people who have eternal souls, many of whom will one day be whole and burden-free on the other shore. You provide necessities, comfort and security for them till that sweet day of release.

You are the light of the world to a life shadowed by disability, the salt of the earth to one who, but for you, faces days of tasteless monotony, the city on a hill for someone who desperately needs a reason to look up. You are spending your time with “the least of these”. You are spending time with the Lord.

And in this precious process, you are happy. There may be some tears and some angst here and there, but you count even those days as blessings. You are doing exactly what you want to do. [Read more…]

The Hoary Head

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how elderly people are treated in our society. I guess it’s the fact that I accompanied my dad on much of a three-week rehab stay that was housed in a wing of a healthcare center. A healthcare center is what we used to call a nursing home. Some of the things I saw there made me very sad. There were some of the patients in the home who never had visitors. There were some whose children came by once a week on their way to the restaurant on Saturday mornings. There were some residents who waited for long periods for someone to come and clean soiled bed linens and there were others who just sat in front of the daytime television (and you know that can’t be wholesome) for hours-on-end each day. There were friendly people to provide bingo and ice cream day and “exercise,” but, unless the resident actually had a family advocate, the opportunities for interaction with people and fun activities were pretty limited. It almost made me feel bad that my dad was inundated with visitors, had 100 plus cards on the wall and more interaction with family than he probably ever wanted.

Lots of lessons come to mind. I’m really glad that I have a family advocate, an older Brother who goes before the Supreme Caregiver in my behalf with my every need. It’s also obvious that the sick people who had constant interaction with well people got lots better, lots faster than those who were on their own. This, of course, is true of spiritually sick people. We just get lots better when we spend time with those who are spiritually mature (Gal 6:1).

But the main thing I’m learning, as I observe elderly people more, is that we, as a society do not always adequately honor the elderly among us. I certainly am guilty of this. Sometimes we fail to apply the golden rule in their treatment. Sometimes we are just so busy that it’s easier for us to place our elderly loved ones in the care of others, who are unrelated to them and can’t possibly care for them in the same way as loving family members can. (I realize that sometimes it’s impossible for families to provide thorough and adequate care.) Sometimes we get frustrated with their slowness of mind or body and sometimes we avoid them because they can’t hear or understand us well. Sometimes, we are self-centered.

Also symptomatic of the growing lack of respect in society are the common financial predators who target those who are elderly and live alone. My father is just one elderly man, but the abuses that have come his way in recent years have been multiple. Like the man who kept coming back to cut trees for my dad for pay. His scam was to call my dad pretending he was the power company and inform Dad that he needed to cut back some trees so that they would be safely out of the area of power lines. The trees in question were nowhere near a road and could not have even been seen by those passing the property. Then the man would come out and ask Dad if the power company had called to ask him to have some trees cut. Sure enough, when we checked with the power company, they had not and do not call to inform people of trees that need to be cut. We now believe this man also poisoned a huge tree and later come back to see if he could cut and remove the dead branches. It was a perfectly healthy oak tree until just before this man made his first appearance at Dad’s to ask if he wanted him to cut this tree– a tree that was completely hidden from the road. One day after being paid by my dad for cutting some branches, this man sat down on a chair on my dad’s porch. The chair broke and the man immediately began to talk about the extreme pain in his leg. He hopped away and then began to call and say he was going to have to have money for a doctor to x-ray that leg that was “just killing” him. But as soon as Dad tried to get his name and information so he could file the incident on his homeowner’s insurance, the man said he would just “give it a little time and see if it get’s better.” We never knew the man’s name.

Then there was the woman who kept coming to my dad’s door in dire need of money to help with her car repairs. The thing is, I’m not sure she even owned a car. She “borrowed” a little money and battery jumper cables and incessantly called to ask for a little more and a little more. She called my dad by his first name and acted as if they were old friends when she first came, though none of us had a clue who she was. When we tried to trace subsequent calls and identify her, we found that the calls were from a pay phone at a Shell station.

The most recent scam was a man who called claiming to be my brother, Dad’s son. He said he was sick and had incurred medical expenses and really needed two hundred-fifteen dollars. Dad kept hanging up the phone because it just did not sound like my brother’s voice. The man just continued to call back and explained, “I don’t sound like myself because I have had a really bad case of laryngitis. But if you can please let me borrow the money I can have somebody come by and pick it up for me.” Thankfully, Daddy did not fall for this despicable lie. Although I had already spoken to my brother that same day, we quickly called him again to ascertain that he was still well. I later called the police to report this persistent caller and found that Dad was the fifth one in that small rural police district who had experienced this same ploy in recent days. Three of the elderly victims had refused to believe the caller. One had, unfortunately, placed the money in her mailbox to be delivered to her “ailing son” in Florida.

A scam artist, of any stripe, must lead a miserable life. Surely he must be driven by tragic addictions to stoop to dealing in deception for profit. But how can anyone do it to those who can remember a time in our country and whose levels of trust were formed in an America in which all the people in a given rural community knew and trusted one another? How can they get their hearts’ permission to do it to those who are on fixed and very limited incomes? How can they do it to those who have spent their lives working hard to provide for their families, given back to their churches and communities and, in many cases, spent portions of their lives in military service to insure the freedoms that the con artists are enjoying? It’s just scraping the bottom of the barrel, morally speaking.

God has no patience with those who would take advantage of the elderly. Hear his command to israel In Leviticus 19:32:

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

…And again, from the Proverbs:

The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness (16:11).

…And then there’s the somewhat puzzling, but emphatic punishment of the children who made fun of the bald-headed Elisha in II Kings two.

Rehoboam failed to listen and learn from the older men in I Kings 12. Jacob took advantage of his aged father’s failing eyesight in Genesis 27. The sons of Jacob, in turn, tricked him when he was old (Genesis 37). The sons of Belial (Benjamites) took advantage of the old hospitable man and his guest in Judges 19. Eli’s sons disrespected him when he was old (I Samuel 2) and Samuel’s sons did the same in First Samuel 8. Even the aging apostle Paul was forsaken by many who should have stood with him (II Timothy 4). None of these situations turned out well for those who spurned, forsook or abused the elderly people of God.

As much as I would hate to be an elderly person and be abused by a young person devoid of conscience, I’d rather be the abused than the abuser. What a miserable life in the here-and-now and what a fearful thing to face God in the judgment having mistreated the hoary-headed saint!