Preserving Their Dignity

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Not every senior needs our help in making sure they’re treated with kindness and respect. Some still have a lot of moxie and can take up for themselves. But the older we get and the frailer we become the more some people ignore and discount older people all together. Things are changing but not quickly enough. Also, as caregivers we often jump in with both feet and take over everything. This can leave our older loved one feeling quite useless. We need to back off a bit and let them do what they can when they can.

More than once I’ve offered to go grocery shopping for my parents. Momma only rarely goes to the store; it’s daddy who does the shopping.

“Daddy, I can go to the store for you, or call down and order what you need,” I tell him.

“No, Angel,” he says. “This is something I can still do and I want to keep doing it as long as I can.”

It’s hard on his legs and he’s tired for the rest of the day but I’m glad he can do it. It makes him feel useful.

More and more my parents call me and ask for advice. Daddy’s lawnmower needed to be fixed so he called me. Do I know how to fix a lawnmower? Nope. But he still wanted me to know what’s going on and to see if I could find someone to fix it. I looked online and told Daddy I thought he should just get a service to come out and fix it.

“Oh, no,” he said. “That would cost too much money.”

“Okay, Daddy,” I said. “There is a place here in town but we’d have to take it to them.”

That’s when the adventure began. I took my old pick’em up truck over and we commenced to try to load a big orange riding mower on my truck. It took all three of us to make ramps out of boards and then I had to almost muscle it into the truck bed. The Lord must have been with us because we got it done. It was a lot more work than just getting someone to come out, but daddy got his way. That is important. According to my momma though, it will be the last time, from now on the service is coming to them!

Often when we become the one who is making all the decisions and doing all the deeds we forget that there the life of our loved one hangs in the balance and they deserve to know what’s going on and to have a say, if possible, in what is going to happen in their lives. By talking over decisions with them and listening to what they think, we are showing them respect and that goes a long ways in anyone’s book.

When I go places with daddy, like to a store or restaurant, people often direct questions at me. Okay, he’s 84, completely white headed, wears faded overalls, weighs about 115 pounds soaking wet and is hard of hearing. I guess that’s why they ask me. But I’m not used to that. I often won’t answer them. I turn to daddy and ask him the question myself. I hope in this way I’m letting the person know that my daddy is important and he will make the decision.

Showing respect is often in the little things we do. I was always taught that when someone is speaking to you, you look them in the eye. You give up your seat to someone older. You say, “Yes ma’am and “No sir.” I know these may seem archaic rules to most people today, but older folks still find these things important. It makes them feel respected.

Our elders have lived a lot, survived, thrived and gained a lot of wisdom. If ever there was a time in their lives to be shown respect, it is now.

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