This demon called OLD AGE, what must it be like?

I was the non-paid family caregiver of three elder people for twelve years of my life.  I saw each of them go through many facets of aging.  My father was always kind of a loud, angry guy, but as he got older and the Alzheimer’s took over, he actually became quite mellow.  My mother had been the perfect parent, leading the PTA and the Girl Scout troop; the mom all the other kids loved, yet in her elder years she became resentful and angry.  My uncle had always gone with the flow of life and now would burst out in frustration and pain.

Even though I saw the effects of aging for each of them, I would imagine that going through it yourself is much worse.

Imagine your life today.  You have worked a full day.  You don’t particularly like your boss, but you enjoy the work you are doing ad you feel like you have purpose.  On your way home, you realize you need milk or coffee and stop at the store.  You realize you need gas, so you stop at the station down the street from the grocery.  Before you drive home, you run your clothes in to the dry cleaner to be cleaned.  When you get to your house, you pull the car into the garage, grab your bags of groceries and easily walk up the 22 stairs to the main floor.

After you turn on the evening news and e-mail your sister, you pull all of the ingredients out of the refrigerator and whip up dinner.  Once you and the family have eaten, you rinse off the dishes and put them into the dishwasher.  You gather the laundry and easily carry the over-sized basket to the laundry room.  You walk and feed the dog and when the dryer buzzes, letting you know the sheets are dry, you make the bed.  . . .  and on and on and on!!

Wherever you live, whether house or apartment; whether you drive, ride your bike or take the bus to work; whether it is just you or you and your spouse and your teenage son, you have a fairly high level of freedom and independence.   We can work two jobs; we can be exhausted from lack of sleep; we can be inconvenienced with the car in the shop, but at the end of the day, we are still OK.

The act of getting older, both physically and mentally, begins to rob us of that freedom and independence.  For some it is just physical and the mind is still sharp.  For others, the mind goes yet the body is still in good condition.  Whatever the scenario, it most likely is not pleasant.  Frustration, fear, anger, uncertainty, resentment, paranoia are adjectives that all come to mind.

There will clearly be days when your elderly loved one feels the need to express one of the aforementioned emotions.  Often times they will yell at you or treat you poorly.  They will have forgotten their manners and demand that you complete some menial task for them.  They will expect you to spend time with them whether they speak or not.  They might be down-right nasty to you or even go so far as to physically abuse you.  All of this, of course will have you asking yourself why you should continue to care for this person.  You are being so kind and giving so much and yet they treat you so badly and with such disrespect.  But, remember they are scared about what’s coming.  They are angry at the loss of their facilities, independence, eyesight or fine motor skills.  They need to cut loose on someone and you are conveniently located to them.  Somewhere in their subconscious they also know that no matter how badly they treat you, you won’t desert them.

I know it’s hard.  I know it’s extremely painful, after everything you’ve done for them. But pull back, walk into the next room, take a deep breath and try to imagine what it would be like.  It will get you through . . .  at least until the next time.  Hang in there, my dear caregiver friend!

About Carol

Carol Core, President and Founder of CarolCARE knows, first hand, what your life looks like when it comes to caring for your elderly loved one. Carol knows, because for over 12 years she was the non-paid family caregiver for her Mom, Dad and dear Uncle Earl. While trying to juggle full-time work; life as a wife, mother and grandmother; she managed the care, health, finances and safety of three elderly people.