What is the worth of a grumpy old man that he would deserve to be heard for the thousandth time about his buddy he’d lost in Vietnam? What is the qualification that that lady with the silver hair must have before I sit down and help her find the right puzzle piece?
The popular and proper answers would be that the worth is immeasurable and that there are no needed qualifications. Do we value our beloved elders so much? I hope we do. I think we do, as a people. At least in general. Of course, there are some who carry the burden more than the rest of us. People who offer themselves for their sake; who give their time, their money, for their sake.
Aysha Treadwell, caregiver of people, and owner of McKinley Community Care reflected this thought when she said, “I’m not sure you expect to become a caregiver, whether as a family member or hired to assist someone with their care. But when you make the commitment to being a caregiver, you’re telling someone their life is worth your time.”
The word, “burden,” when used as a noun, is one that creates images of something heavy that sits upon our shoulders. Or maybe a thing, sometimes a terrible thing, that is pressing against our soul; that can move us, if we’ll let it, to action. And from time to time it’s used as a verb, as in “He was burdened with only having one outlet when there were three things to plugin. Oh, the humanity!” But regardless of how it is used, when this six-letter word is placed upon ourselves, as we stand alone, horrified at the state of us, staring without so much as a blink into the mirror before us, we conjure up a negative conclusion of what we think of this reflection in the dwindling light of these precious relationships.
Carried beyond oneself, and with logical thinking, the final product is that the entire village of us is less than it can be; that the entire region of us is less than it can be; that the entire nation of us is less than it can be.
I am a US Army veteran, fifty years old, and have recently begun the process of preventative maintenance with my family physician and local medical specialists. That said, I’m beginning also, to look down the portal that leads toward my final chapter, whenever that is for me. Through this time left to me, I long for a certain amount of kindness shown toward me. I hope to have a smidge of respect demonstrated toward me. Too, I desire the things that are simple. Like a smile, or a kind word, or a helping hand. And I hope for the continued ability to express that to others.
The purpose for me bringing up part of who I am, what I’m beginning to experience, and the future that may be ahead is that you and I are one in the same. Not identical, but humanly speaking, we’re both born, we’ll both die. But for now, we’re both alive. Decisions must be made, and actions must be taken to be the person to others as we want others to be to us.
So, that brings me to this. Part of the equation of living a decent and blessed life is knowing who we are, what our limitations are, what we want for ourselves, and how our very existence matters to others.
In my household, we joke with one another that we – just – don’t – like – people. I mean, it’s funny to say. But when looked at with a bit of honesty, I tend to agree with the theory that this kind of thinking is a product of too much time on the internet, too much time watching one news source, reading one genre of writing, and too little reflection of who we really are in light of who we could be.
You may know someone, maybe it’s you, who offers themselves for another’s sake. I mentioned just a bit earlier that these people do exist – I imagine most of us know at least one. Recently, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a small cluster of people who could all be described in this way.
I visited McKinley Community Care in Snellville, Georgia. Already knowing some of their backgrounds though reading and hearing a testimony from a mutual friend, I felt I was somewhat prepared for what I was going to encounter. But I wasn’t. I was blindsided with the faces. Yes, of course, faces were something I was prepared to see. But, these were smiling faces. Sincere, happy expressions of the participants, office staff, medical, and others. When I arrived, the majority of these mostly forgotten people (referred to as participants – not patients) were gathered together in a comfortable setting, listening to a local pastor give a message of hope and love. They listened intently to the man’s engaging and kind voice.
Aysha and I spoke of this at length. Not about the specific message, but that the voices and eyes we engage a person with are many times what that person remembers most – especially within a fragmented memory. She said, “We all hope to age gracefully but if the need arises for care, remember there’s still a person inside and they might not always remember what you say – but they feel how you say it.”
Aysha guided me through the beautiful facility. It was graced with artwork. The walls were filled with photos of the fun and intentionally social day-to-day activities and events. The floors shined, the corners were spotless, and the tables were carefully and neatly arranged.
There was a crafts room, a quiet room with lower lighting, and many pockets here and there that were obviously and intentionally designed for connection – for a human to human interaction – for social living. These things, in conjunction with the fact that it was staffed with professionals and outfitted with accommodating facilities for the most challenging disabilities, made for a wonderful place for an adult who can’t be left alone for too long at home while a care-taker is at his or her work during the day.
Grand plans of change sometimes are admired for a moment only to eventually be sluffed off as if it were tried before – as if it were something that cannot work and must be chalked up as past and failed experiment; as another utopian dream that must be squashed with reality.
These valuable elders that shape up the earliest part of our existing generations and human history are people who hold priceless truths and experiences of wars served; lived through countless trials and joys, and face something we’ve never faced – aged and final years.
Remember those who are older. Talk to those who are older. Spend time with those who are older. And if there is a home-bound situation, help them find an alternative in order to continue or re-start a social life.
I’m sure we’re all decent people. But the reality is that we’re not as wonderful as we could be, and there is surely room for improvement as individuals and ultimately in our society’s well-being.
When money that is budgeted through benefits, and those benefits are delayed because of a flawed system, the system must be changed. Our families deserve the best care possible. This comes with timely funding. Those who come alongside us should not be burdened with carrying the weight of personally financing their care.
I know I can do more. We all can. We can begin by reaching out to our representatives in Congress, imploring them to act; to speak; to vote for fundamental change in the way these things are handled.
In the meantime, as we cry out for such a change, we can help immediately. https://www.youhelp.com/help-our-veterans-keep-care.