Past – Present – Future
Old people are valuable because they know the past, are in the present, and can help guide us into the future due to their life experience.
Children have no past relevance, are becoming aware of the present, and, perhaps and hopefully, will thrive in the future.
It’s generally an uplifting experience to work with small children. There is so much happy experience to look forward to, so much possibility of what might come as time goes by. Children are open, pride-less, untested by experience. It is an enormous responsibility to work with children. So, in order to work in childcare one generally needs a college degree in early childhood education and a license issued by the State.
Meanwhile, working with fully grown very senior citizens is more of a challenge. The frail elder has spent years directing his/her own course, has made it so very far through life’s challenges – ups and downs. They have the pride of any adult. their future, however, is only full of waning physical (and possibly mental) ability, and death is certainly near. It is comparatively a depressing process Yet, we routinely unleash anyone on grandma or grandpa with no thought or expectation of relevant education and no proof of comprehension of the subject of elder care at any level. Then we spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year fighting, what is many instances, inadvertent elder abuse.
This is not right. This is not fair. It makes little sense.
However, it is not difficult to correct this situation.
Caring for an elder is NOT like caring for a child. How is it different, you might ask? Well, consider the hopefulness surrounding a childs’ future along with the undeveloped blank slate of a childs’ mind vs. the lifetime of experience and wisdom acquired by the aged and the probable dread of the certain approach of death. Are child and the elder the same? A child is not embarrassed by getting their bum washed, yet you can bet grandpa is, no matter how grateful he might otherwise be.
I hope your caregiver will realize this and know how to provide elder care over the process of your final aging. Sure, in the beginning you might need a little help with this or that, but over time, you will need more and more help, your mental faculties probably will start diminishing along with your physical abilities. Your body will be going through constant changes manifesting as one, two or three or more different diseases that only an informed, alert and aware person would notice early on.
Emotionally, spiritually and psychologically as you age you will be going through subtle and not so subtle changes- and none of them will be easy.
So, along with a good heart, I hope your caregiver is filled with respect for you and is aware of the process of letting go that life requires at the end.
This respect for the process of aging is why now is the time for you and the Boomer generation to demand a certification requirement – proving at least a comprehension of the needs of a frail elder and how to be an appropriate companion during the end of life phase- for those who step up the the elder care giving plate.
There are affordable elder care courses at community colleges and even more reasonable elder care certification programs online available to suit every need and convenience. Now is the time to tell your elected officials and others who lead Departments of Aging that informal caregivers and professional Personal Care Aids must be required to avail themselves of complete caregiver education programs and prove they have learned the material by passing a test. This is all the certification process entails.
Aren’t you worth it?
Ask yourself, is this the level of personal care you want for yourself down the road?
Contributing author: Rev. Dr. Cathleen Carr JD MscD