Don't be surprised that a 102 year old is not being pushed around in a wheel chair. Nope, she pushes her own walker, reads, stays abreast of the news, works on her home computer and gives instructions to the very last detail. And wow, don't stop her in mid-sentence, she will make sure you know not to do that again.
It was a Friday and although I choose not to work on Fridays sometimes it's a need for staff and I will go if I can. When I was asked to go and work with this client I hesitated, as it was a really long drive and I had never met her before. That's what happens many times in the paid home caregiver world when the usual caregiver is out sick, or for some other reason the agency has to quickly find someone who they feel is compatible to take that shift. I quickly changed my mind and decided to take the shift as I thought about being able to listen to the CDs of a book I had just borrowed from the library. Also, I thought I will get to see a new part of town. It turned out to be such a joy to meet that lady that day and work with her that I am still relishing the day of work.
The community was a bit difficult to locate even with navigation technology, and at first after I had made our acquaintances I thought, she is really bossy. Don't try to move to follow her instructions before she is done speaking, because she will stop you. She wants you to focus and listen to her as she enunciates every single word, and then you are asked if you have any questions. If there are no questions you may proceed. Based on her education, training and life experience she has developed some clear guidelines on operating her everyday life. I have always admired feisty women. A lot of times they say out loud what I am thinking, but feel I could not dare utter. So centenarians like this lady is fabulous to meet.
It turned out I didn't have much to do at all except listen, stand by and assist, put things back where I found them, converse and fix her meals. After lunch she told me she would be going to take a shower, take a nap and do some reading in that order. She wanted me to go sit in the living room and read. Ha good thing I'm a reader. I said, "Oh great I will keep reading my book". Without blinking an eye she asked, "what are you reading?" I told her it was a real estate book, so she wanted to know if they had any great tips in the book. I also told her about the one I was listening to in the car - "Higher Loyalty by James Comey". She immediately gave me her take on that situation, was well informed and definitely balanced. No extremism for this lady.
For her shower she took care of every single thing herself except for instructing me what needed to be placed where for her convenience during her shower. As promised, after that she got in her bed but picked up her phone. She made at least five phone calls and chatted with out of state relatives, her children and friends. Then as promised she did her reading of a magazine, but alas no nap. She appreciated how I kept coming to check on her while she was taking her afternoon rest, and made sure to tell me.
When she was ready for dinner there were more detailed instructions. She asked did I have something to eat, because she wanted me to eat with her at the table. Luckily I had brought something and sat with her. She reached for my hand and we held hands while she said a beautiful prayer not a recitation. Earlier one of her church friends had brought over a homemade cake, so she had a small sample for dessert.
We had such great conversation. One story she happily told was about the time she wanted to be a band leader but was told that she couldn't because she was a woman. Then came world upheaval and the men went off to war. With a sense of satisfaction she exclaimed "So I got to lead the band at the school at which I was teaching". She told of ending a teaching career, raising her children, and then going on to a career in finance. We talked about the cello as we both love its sound, and she talked about the royal wedding. She told me she was sorry to have missed most of it, so we shared the video of the young cellist Sheku Kannen-Mason on my phone. She watched and listened with avid attention.
When I left It was already dark and I had a long drive. But it's meeting folks like this wonderful lady that makes this job fulfilling. No not the pay, let's not go there! It's being able to be of assistance to others and filling a need. Its the gratefulness she showed to me for having come so far, her kindness, intelligence, energy and well I had a great day.
I hope to see her again some day. She goes to a weekly church group where they teach quilting and she showed me the material for the next week that someone would pick up over the weekend. She even does most of the cutting of the pieces for the quilt. This lady's resilience is unbelievable. There is no complaining from her. In fact, there is joy in her steps as she checks her daily list to make sure she got her plans accomplished for that day.
So when caregiver days arrive for you when you are 102 years old how will you be ready for the stranger who comes in to see that you safely take your shower, have your meals, talk with you intelligently, patiently and respectfully? Please connect with me and let me know your thoughts.
When you are done with your career there will numerous people out there who you can help in this way. There will be many like yourself who will enjoy a good intelligent conversation. You will make a little extra cash and gain a world of good.
Ruth Y. Webster