When eldercare comes knocking at the door, many people run in the opposite direction; but not you.
Just as childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and middle age are developmental phases of life, you acknowledge that someone you care about is going to get old and that someone is going to need care and attention.
You may be living with your elders, or you might be picking up the phone and checking in every once in a while. Whatever the case may be, when there are older people in your life, and you’ve increased the amount of attention you give them, and you’re growing more concerned, you are a caregiver.
At first, eldercare may feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under you; you’re falling and grabbing for something—anything—steady to hang on to, and there’s nothing there. You laugh when things are sad; you cry when things go well. You never quite touch ground, and you soon realize that life is never going to be the same. People who once took care of you or walked by your side are now on another journey. You can walk with them for a while longer, then face the sad fact that they will ultimately leave you.
The caregiving journey will take you to places unimaginable, and in the process you will learn more about yourself than ever before. Each day has the potential to bring to the surface life-altering issues and events that offer you the opportunity to develop skills and talents you never knew you had—resourcefulness, stamina, flexibility, and faith, to name a few.
You won’t come away from the caregiving experience the same as when you started, nor will you look at life, and death, in the way you did before. While even the kindest and most gracious older people can be difficult and demanding at times, ideally, you’ll find a way to respond to them with empathy and love. Or you may tolerate your elders out of guilt and fear the burdens they represent but beware of falling into the pity pit. Do not be blinded by the problem-solving elements of eldercare or you’ll miss the valuable lessons they have to teach.
The simple truth about elders is this: They want their lives to be validated, and they do not want to die alone. Go to them as best you can and you will be rewarded handsomely.
Eldercare wakes up the soul and brings us face-to-face with our own mortality. Eldercare teaches us to live in the present and is the conduit that serves as a daily reminder of what is ultimately important in our lives.