This is not a piece about the many healthy, vibrant elderly living happily and autonomously on their own.
It's not a piece on all the many problems and stereotypes that people with disabilities have to deal with every day, although some of these observations may be relevant to them.
Growing Old Is Not For Sissies.
I hear that phrase the time, but didn't really think about it. At least not until my dad really started to go downhill.
I spent a lot of time with my father this week: running to doctors, sitting through meetings with therapists and home health aids, and going through the everyday business of life.
My dad looks and acts 'old'. Every medical form he signs describes him as 'frail' and lists him as 'alert confused'. His decline had been long and slow, but suddenly it's fast and steep. Everything is effortful for him: walking, eating, talking, even looking. His memory is fading and his speech is slow.
He needs a lot of help. Not a little help, but the full time care that my mom devotes to him.
Kids and the Frail Elderly: Similar Problems
It takes patience to work with people like my dad, despite how much he loves my mother and how hard he tries to care for himself and remain independent.
Watching him in many settings, I was struck at how similar the skills needed to work well with people sliding into dementia or with severe disabilities are to the skills needed to work well with kids. It is very easy for well-meaning folks and caregivers to make the same mistakes with my dad as we too often do with little kids. For the same reasons. Just like little kids, the frail elderly have problems with many daily activities:
Simple Steps To Make Help Really Helpful
When Caring for Vulnerable People
When people can't speak for themselves or when they do daily tasks more slowly than we want them too - especially when WE'RE troubled and need support ourselves - it's easy to forget ourselves and move too quickly.
Some things to keep in mind:
An excellent guide to resources for the elderly is available through the New York Times blog The New Old Age (http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/)
My father and mother both gave me permission to talk about our family in this post.