Even the Strongest Senior Sometimes Needs a Little Help

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I took a whole lot of classes while earning my post-graduate certificate in gerontology. I did learn a lot about aging and the problems that come with getting older. But my most significant education did not come from a university. I’ve learned the most from my parents and especially my incredible mama.

At 82 years old, she still works in her two-acre garden for hours at a time while taking care of my daddy who continues to struggle at times. She waits on him hand and foot even getting up in the middle of the night when his itching gets bad. She does complain a little bit.

“Karen, I know you won’t believe this,” she said in a teasing voice. “Your daddy is spoiled.”

I laugh. “Well, you’re the one who spoiled him,” I tell her.

The Challenges of Aging

She’s overcome Guillain-Barre syndrome and so many challenges throughout her life. She rarely goes to the doctor but every time she does they go on and on about what great shape she is in.

Karen's mom and dad

Karen’s mom and dad

The hardest thing for my mother to do is ask for help and take her own health seriously. It took me months to get her to the doctor for a urinary tract infection. She insisted on treating it with over the counter meds and gallons of water each day. Then she developed a rash on her arms and face. I finally jumped in the car and said, “You’re going to the ER!” She went.

When I say my mother loves her garden that is an understatement. She is passionate about the two-acre homestead. She thrives on being outside working or what she calls “puttering.” I’ve never known a time when my mother isn’t digging up a bush or tree and moving it somewhere else in the yard or at least thinking about it.

Lessons from Mama

Last week, my mama met her match.

She decided one of her oleander bushes needed to be moved. That bush has been in that spot for decades. That didn’t stop my mama. She dug around it. She soaked it with water. She even took my daddy’s axe to it. That bush did not move.

“I got so mad at your daddy,” mama said. “He said I couldn’t move that bush.”

“Well that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull,” I said.

“He always does me that way,” she replied.

She worked on that bush for three days, soaking and digging and hitting it with an axe. I went over to see if I could help. I repeated her process. That bush was NOT moving.

Finally, my oldest son got wind of her project. He came down with his little jeep and a chain and that bush met its match.

Whether it’s a bush that needs moving or an illness that needs treating, please all of you — elders and caregivers alike — don’t wait too long to get help. You’ll save yourself and your loved ones from a whole lot of worry and grief.

Take a lesson from my mama.

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