Get Involved With Senior Care
For many seniors the family needs to be there and express the anger they are feeling over their care in various healthcare facilities. In my father in laws record it said, “My Son in law is causing a problem.” Yes, I spoke up because he was afraid that if he complained they wouldn’t respond to his needs when he was alone at night with no family there to help him. Some of my complaints were to get them to treat him like a person. When his forehead itched they sedated him instead of scratching his forehead. To have a quadriplegic sleeping all day seemed to me to make his life meaningless. So I complained. There is more to caring then writing prescriptions.
Many years before he died he developed a multitude of symptoms, was unable to eat and was close to death. When a new nursing home was built near our house I said I was going to move him so we could be close to him in his final week of life. I was told I would have to pay his medical bills since I was not in charge of making those decisions. I said I would since he looked only days from his end and I arranged the move.
Within a few days after he was moved he was smiling, eating and not dying. I asked him, “How come you’re not dying anymore?” I didn’t tell him I was asking for financial reasons. He answered, “I was dying to make the people in the other nursing home happy. They were tired of taking care of me.” He lived for many years after that. Again it shows us how important our connections and relationships are to other living things.
Having Something to Live for is Key
We know the benefits of people and pets but even plants and goldfish can prolong survival when they give us meaning. In one nursing home study they put plants in all the rooms but only half the residents were told the plants were their responsibility to water and care for. The others were told they were simply room decorations. Those who were given responsibility lived an average of six years longer.
Let me close with two simple techniques for knowing what the aged are thinking without having to verbalize things they do not want to
share. One is to ask, “How would you feel if placed in a totally white room?” and “What is your favorite animal and why?”
When a senior is tired of living or physically exhausted the white room is a spiritual sanctuary they are happy to be in because there is no stimulation and they can rest there. When there is still an active life force they will want to leave, redecorate or put in a picture window.
The description of one’s favorite animal is always related to one’s feeling about one’s self. So an active meaningful description also speaks about the same thing in that person’s life and self. When there is no animal, life or energy in their choice they are ready to move on to become dreamless, unalive and perfect again. Please remember that leaving our bodies is a therapeutic decision at some point. When we leave we do not take our afflictions with us. That is another topic we can discuss in another issue; related to near death experiences.
I also see the life force when I ask seniors to draw pictures of themselves as they are today and as they were twenty five years ago. Ninety percent of the time I receive two pictures. One picture revealing a slim happy individual in the past and the other fat and unhappy one today. A small minority hand me one picture saying, “That’s me then and that’s me now.” They understand their attitude is what creates their world. As a blind senior shared after her husband died while she was being wheeled into a nursing home for the first time. “What a lovely place.”
“You can’t see and have been here for less than five minutes. How can you say that?”
“I decide what I see.”
And so it is at every age. So grow young along with me. The best is presently. I have learned from Helen Keller that, “Deafness is darker by far than blindness.” So when in doubt about how to help a senior, listen, listen, listen and only say, “Ummm” in several ways. By your listening they will get to know themselves and their needs and then you will receive credit for being an enormous help. I know from experience.
You can find more from Dr. Bernie Siegel @ www.berniesiegelmd.com