It’s My Job

I go see ‘old’ people.

I go talk with them.  I go listen to them.  I go and look at their pictures.   I go and hear their life stories.

I’ve met ‘old’ people who haven’t worked at a paying job in decades.

I’ve met ‘old’ people who have been working for more decades than I’ve been alive.

I’ve met ‘old’ people who are still caring for their disabled child, now an adult, and have done so every single day of their child’s life.  Not trusting others to provide the level of care they can.

I’ve met ‘old’ people who are raising their children’s children.  Or their children’s children’s children.  And on occasion, there are the ‘old’ people raising their children’s children’s children’s child(ren).

I’ve met ‘old’ people who have been home makers (no retirement plan), law enforcement officers/officials, teachers, veterans, nuns, laborers who proudly tell me what they have built that still stands in our world, chemists, engineers, athletes, store clerks, pilots, business owners, cooks, authors, painters, bankers, lawyers, waitresses, and jobs that I never knew existed.

I go see ‘old’ people who I have to hustle to keep up with while they are busy with all they must do.

I’ve met with ‘old’ people who don’t want to miss their television show and have a difficult time talking with me while Bob Barker, or the World Turns round and round on the television.

I’ve gone to see ‘old’ people who sang me songs, played musical instruments, or read me the poetry they wrote.   I’ve sat and adored the art they’ve shown me, the pictures they’ve taken, the crafts they used to create.

I go to see ‘old’ people and try to gain their trust.   When they may live an existence that has been void of trust since someone deemed them ‘old’.

I go to see ‘old’ people who trust me the minute I walk in the door.   Because I smile.  And they only recognize a smile.   Even if they remember little else …. they respond to and remember a smile.

I’ve met ‘old’ people who had no desire to talk with me, listen to me, or give me the time of day.

I’ve gone to see ‘old’ people and found them fine, happy, loving and well cared for.

I’ve gone to see ‘old’ people and found them angry, surly, and well cared for.

I’ve gone to see ‘old’ people and found them hungry because they haven’t been able to get out of the house to go to the store.  Hungry, because there’s food in the house and they aren’t capable of fixing themselves something to eat.  Hungry, because there is food in the house, and those who are responsible for their care-do not care.  So ‘old’ people in some homes do not eat.

I’ve gone to see ‘old’ people and found them neglected because they have become unable to care for themselves.  Their once capable body has failed them and they didn’t know it was coming.  One day they were doing.  Suddenly, they were not.

I’ve gone to see ‘old’ people and found them neglected because someone who should want to provide care, would rather not care.  So they don’t.  You don’t want to know what I’ve seen.

I’ve gone to see ‘old’ people who have lost every single dollar they have ever earned because they have been scammed.   People calling them on the telephone, taking advantage of their vulnerability.  Or family, friends, acquaintances-taking advantage of an older person’s physical or cognitive decline.   And they take.  And take.  And take.  Until there is nothing.   And until the ‘old’ person is without money.   And often left without a way to provide for what they need for themselves.

I’ve gone to see old people who no one else wants to go see.

I’ve met old people who can’t remember the last time someone paid them a visit.  Or the last time they felt the touch of another human.  Or the last time someone did something kind for them.

I go see old people.

I’ve met old people.

There are some amazing old people out there.

And I shouldn’t be the one having to go see them.

It’s a shame that this kind of job must exist.

***

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Please wear purple to show your support.

More importantly

Please be aware of the old people in your world.

And help them if they need help.

If they don’t need help,

Just go see them.

We all have a story.

No one wants to be forgotten.

No one wants to be abused, neglected or exploited.

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67 thoughts on “It’s My Job

  1. dogear6 says:

    It is as shame that what you do exists, but you’ve made it a calling. Not everyone who does your work sees it as a calling, just like I mentored so many in the workplace whether they worked for me or not. It was my calling, not just a job.

    You captured – briefly as usual – what the day is like when you go out and the value of each person you might meet. Nice job!

    Also, loved the gravatar you made for your husband. I hovered my mouse over to see who it was that had a “look” so similar to your artwork. Not a surprise!

    Have a good evening!

    Nancy

    • Thank you Nancy. I have worked with amazing people in this field. I happen to write about it. I am impressed by the grace and generosity of so many people in this field. I have learned of respect and dignity in so many different ways from so many different people. Mostly, the people we serve. I have often walked out of ‘visit’ to examine, or re-examine, my life and my perspective. Some have changed. Some have been strengthened.

      And thank you for loving his gravatar. We actually made tshirts for ourselves of this and when we wore them people loved them. They thought it was either Einstein, Colonel Sanders or a few other notables. But most looked at the shirt, then him, and wondered if he was famous and they couldn’t place him! 🙂

  2. janet says:

    It’s your passion, and it is evident in that smile you share.

  3. janet says:

    But it’s really your hair they remember.

    • 😀 It is indeed the hair. 🙂 And thank you. 🙂 I hope others read this comment so I can say that this comment is from someone who is the epitome of compassion in what we do. 🙂 Coworker extraordinaire. Thank you.

  4. jmgoyder says:

    You are wonderful and I am so much on your wavelength. I am in the midst of a strange conundrum now that I’ve been pushed into resigning my job in the dementia cottage of Anthony’s nursing home by middle-management. I want desperately to continue to visit these residents with dementia but intuit that these two women might make it difficult. Wish me luck!

    • I am more than wishing you luck Julie. I’d like to know why anyone in the field of care for these folks would want to limit something that their residents enjoy and benefit from? That is a sign of a power play and a sure sign of indifference to the people they serve.

      I hope you keep us posted.

  5. This post is so wonderful Colleen and gives me faith in humans again. Humans who are like you and who care. Someday I could be one of those old people or our parents could be one of those old people that cannot do for themselves anymore. We need more people in this world to care. I will wear purple on June 15 to support this cause. Many blessings to you, to people like you and to all the old people.

    • I think the people who are indifferent to others needs and situations are completely clueless that we are all a breath away from being that needy of someone. I have learned to not take for granted what it is I have and can do. And it helps me to keep an eye on where I’m going….which is where they are. Because I never leave without thinking….they were once right where I am.

      And yay for the purple!!!! 🙂 Thank you Priceless.

  6. russtowne says:

    Thank you for this message and reminder, Colleen.

  7. Victo Dolore says:

    Amen. Thank you for this post.

  8. inmycorner says:

    Brilliant, Colleen. What a powerful message. June 15 will be a date that I shall not forget (it would have been my Dad’s birthday!). You have even visited “old” people on their blogs! grin. Wow.

  9. I can only hope the people who have your calling will multiply a d soon. Caring people make life a teeny bit better for the forgotten and those in need. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • I’ve learned a lot these years Tess. And the more we do for others the less there seems to need done for ourselves. I hope that makes sense. I have to say I have seen kindness and compassion beyond measure all of these years, which I should write about as well. But this hard stuff…..so many have no clue….

  10. Mustang.Koji says:

    Words from the heart, Chatter Master. Certainly things to think about…and yes, you are needed. I wish it was under better situations.

    But one concept plagues me on this. Medical advances keep our bodies ticking… but leave the minds behind, perhaps, or the wherewithal to feed ourselves. I’m not condoning this or that… Just pondering.

    • I know what you mean Koji. It worries me. I don’t want my body to be kept alive longer than what my mind can be of use to it. I still think there is going to be a break through in regards to dementia and Alzheimer’s. I don’t know why I think that, but I do. I think there is something that can be done to prevent this wretched affliction. I hope it is soon. It’s already too late. So no matter how soon it happens, I fear for those who are suffering now and don’t need to be.

  11. What an important reminder. What a rewarding career!

  12. Colleen, it is such a hard job and thank God you and others are there.

    • Thank you Chris. I learn from these others every day. And I’m grateful when I don’t know what to do, I am surrounded by people who want to help. There is a large faction of services, but to be honest, it is not large enough for what’s coming.

  13. niaaeryn says:

    I am so glad it is you, with your kindness and compassion doing what you do. It truly is a calling, and I hope more join you in this. I am glad you are there for them.

    A good reminder of the date as well. Purple is a good color. 🙂

    Thank you for being there.

  14. Gibber says:

    It is sad but you make a difference every day I’m sure.

  15. I have never committed to spending time with “old people” I didn’t know, but I happen to know a lot of them! Through the years I’ve just known a lot of people who have had the good fortune to live long lives and although they weren’t that old when I first met them, neither was I! 🙂 We’ve grown older together and now they’re at a stage in their lives when they need help and friendship and I realized recently that this is a new stage of life for all of us. I spend time with my friends in their 80s, while I’m a good 20 years younger, and it’s quite lovely. I think I’m learning a lot about aging just by being that friend. You’re younger than I am, Colleen, but I’ll bet you’re taking some mental notes yourself! I think what you’re doing is absolutely wonderful and incredibly important, Colleen. We all get older and don’t we hope there will always be people around who care about us!

    • That’s the ticket Debra! 🙂 It’s about loving the ones in our lives. If all of the people I go to see had the care of the family in their lives, it would be a huge decline in neglect. Not all of the neglect would be eradicated because I have come across those who truly have no friends or family left, or who have eliminated people from their lives on their own. There are just way too many people who don’t care for the ones in their own world. Or they’re the ones exploiting and abusing.

      Mental notes? Absolutely! I will never ask my children to make a promise to me that they may never be able to keep. That is putting them in a horrible position. ANd pay attention to life now….because now is what I have and now is when I can do what I need and want to do. My mental notes are flooding my brain’s filing cabinets.

      It’s also part of why I don’t want to live a negative existence now. It never pays off well does it?

  16. Colleen – Thank you for posting this all important blog. You’ve written it so not only is it informative and factual but you paint us a picture and motivate us to take action. Yes, I’ve known of these elders and have helped set programs in place. However, programs normally don’t work the way they are supposed to as we have so much greed. I’m all in favor of having roving ambassadors of good-will for the elderly and home-bound or the elderly who need that bit of extra help to live independently. Our government simply wants to shut everyone away. Thanks again for blogging on this all important topic. We’re all going to be ‘old people’ one of these days and I’m pushing the clock.

    • You’re welcome Sheri. Oh my, so I’m not the only one who doesn’t think our “programs” are a bit faulty? I do get highly frustrated when money is put in to ‘things’ that do not result in direct services and care. Seems a little pointless to me. If money is being spent on programs that do not put the money directly in the needs and care….I have to question the point of it.

      And being the ‘old’ people one day beats the alternative.

  17. You are right, we all need to remember the old people in our world. You are doing a great job, and without you some of them might be in a bad situation. Thank you for being you Colleen and for sharing this.

    • You’re welcome Irene. It is something we need to pay attention to isn’t it? I would never want to be in the circumstance I find some of our elderly. It’s scary. I’m sure most of them would not have predicted this either.

  18. Yes it is a shame but bless your ever-loving sweet heart for making a difference. You are a gem. ❤

  19. gaines2015 says:

    Loved every sentence of this. I’m a firm believer in things you need to hear and be aware of somehow finding you when you’re ready to listen – serendipity? Being the only daughter and over 50, with parents in their 90’s is rough…amazing…exhausting…funny…sad….I talk to my parents multiple times a day and communicate with their caregivers in between calls.
    I’m so grateful my parents are living and are in basically great health for their age however, I find myself watching them and seeing them diminish at an accelerated pace it seems like. My brothers aren’t really bothered too much about it. I have to call on them occasionally to help me, and they do, but their contact and relationship with mom and dad is way more hands off than it is for me.
    Thanks for being so succinct in your descriptions. I identified with so much of it. Your insight is amazing. You’re an angel.

    • cindy says:

      Keep up the powerful work you do! You make me smile too.

    • Gaines2015, thank you. I hope other people are watching you. I am utterly shocked by the people who literally sit in the same home environment with some of these elderly people and are completely unwilling to provide the most basic of human needs, kindness or compassion. I have seen people who have changed their entire lives to be able to provide for the elderly, and often these people aren’t even related! They should be considered as much a hero as others we label as heroes. For being to be selfless and compassionate….I see that and am humbled.

      Thank YOU. You are a great reminder of what is also out there. I’ve written about it before, maybe I should do so again.

  20. viveka says:

    Colleen, once again you touch my heart and this time so much stronger. Isn’t terrible that elderly and young people has live through abuse – or anyone really. People that can’t defend themselves … I don’t understand how people can have so much evil inside them. But all abuse is about power.
    A good friend of mine …her old and sick mother was abuse through neglect – that nobody really cared.

    • You’re absolutely right Viveka. it is evil and it is power. I’m not sure what it is about abusing someone else that makes a human feel powerful. You would think it would have the complete opposite effect.

      Neglect is abuse, some people don’t realize that. I wish I could clearly paint a picture of what I have seen. I also wish that for every ‘old’ person the world sees and does not pay attention to, they could see the life that person has lived. The contributions. The work. The life. But people (of course not all) see ‘old’ and are dismissive. We need to change that.

      • viveka says:

        Colleen, I think why we don’t see what is going on with our elderly … is that we don’t want to be reminded about that we can all end up in the same situation, so we close our eyes and hope the truth will disappear. It’s a massive problem in the Western world, this with how we treat our elderly. Nobody seems to have time for them. My friend visit her mum every day and she took her home over weekends, but because she didn’t get the help she was suppose to get after her stroke …. she never got a honest chance to a better life – my friend truly frighted for her mum, but the damage was already done and her quality of life was ruined. Colleen, there is so many things we truly need to change!!! … a fantastic post.

        • Viveka, you said this very well and very accurately. I think you are right about our own fears.

          And your friend? I meet people like that consistently in my work. And there are so many people trying to do the best they can. And it’s hard. One person having to provide constant care for another is very difficult and nearly impossible without some kind of help and assistance.

  21. Robin says:

    Powerful post, CM. It is a terrible shame the way we waste such an amazing (and valuable) resource as our elders who have so much they can share with us and teach us. It’s like throwing away love, isn’t it?

    • Robin, THAT is a perfect statement. Throwing away love. I hope you expand on that statement and write about it. We see so much in life thrown away. Including people.

      Thank you.

  22. That was wonderful. Good for you. I used to work at a nursing home. I like old people too. They do have a lot to offer.

    • Don’t they though? I love listening to the stories. I never have enough time to hear them all. But I want to. We lose so much by not listening and not being there.

  23. April says:

    I’m not exactly sure what your job is, but you sound like the perfect person to do it.

  24. reocochran says:

    May I just be wordless and give you a standing “O?” 🙂

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