Monday, 5 August 2013

How Much Do You Care About The Elderly?

You may find this a strange subject for me to be discussing on I Am Into This but, after certain recent events, I felt compelled to write about it because it is something which breaks my heart.

In case you're not aware, last month I had to go into hospital after slipping four discs in my back. I am now on a long road to recovery and hoping that, with time, I will heal. Not good when you're as impatient as me.

However, while I was in hospital, I was very fortunate to meet some lovely ladies. Evelyn (101-years-old), Margaret (84-year-old), Violet (93-years-old), Joyce (93-years-old) and Jenny (77-years-old). Each of these ladies were in hospital for many different reasons, yet all of them (with the exception of Joyce) had one thing in common - they were very, very lonely. Of course, I made every effort to talk to them as much as I could. Whenever we had a giggle together it really lifted their spirits and made a positive impact on their recovery.

Anyway, as you know, during a hospital stay the staff will come round and take your 'obs' every few hours to monitor your wellbeing. And, the funny thing is that when the ladies on my ward had had a visit from a family member, which wasn't every day, their obs would be much better than they had been  the day before. They were no longer frightened, anxious and, more importantly, having to go through it on their own.

Caring for the elderly
I also made it my responsibility to look after each of these ladies. They couldn't always reach for their buzzer if they were in pain or needed help to go to the toilet, so I would buzz on their behalf for a nurse to come and tend to their needs.

Margaret was in the bed to the right of me and most days she would stare out of the window, or whizz past the foot of my bed with her Zimmer frame (much faster than I could move). But my favourite thing Margaret did was smile. Her smile made my day. She lit up the room and gave a magical sparkle which made you adore her even more.

Margaret's family were unable to visit all the time and she rapidly went downhill. It was awful to witness. She refused to eat, she shuffled along with her Zimmer frame staring at the floor and she didn't smile anymore. After a few days her family came to visit, and me being me had to say something. I told her daughter (very sensitively) how Margaret really perks up when you come to visit and that she had been very low the last few days. It was lovely to see her smiling again when the daughter came, and after that her family came everyday without fail.

Then I thought - how many other elderly people are sat at home, in sheltered accommodation or in a nursing home, feeling pretty much like Margaret had done? Lots of people, I bet.

elderly couple

Now, I know that when my grandparents were alive, perhaps I should have made more of an effort to go and visit them. Maybe I should have rung them up before I went out clothes shopping, or when I got back in from work. It wouldn't have hurt. I never realised how important it is for them to know you are there for them.

Can you imagine what it must be like to be stuck indoors most of the time and not seeing anyone everyday and not conversing with a single person? It must be dreadful. Yet we all seem to forget about these people as we stand behind them in the post office queue and don't even make polite small talk with them.

I am actually going to look into how I can volunteer to help the elderly in my local community because  I genuinely enjoyed my chats with the lovely ladies I met in hospital. Their pearls of wisdom and marvellous stories had me thoroughly captivated. It was an absolute pleasure to have spent my hospital stay with them.

So, all I'm asking is this - if you have got an elderly neighbour, then why not pop across with a couple of homebaked scones for them to enjoy or offer to weed their front garden (it'll only take you 20 minutes, if that)? I bet they'd love it.

A simple 20 minutes of your time would make their day.

On a more serious note, keep an eye out for them. After being in hospital, I went and stayed with my parents in their bungalow for a few weeks. They live in a quiet village on a road full of bungalows and, my goodness, do they get preyed upon. Their doorbells are getting rung more than once everyday by some rather dodgy looking individuals asking to jetwash their drive, clean their guttering, check their roof tiles etc.

doorstep elderly

I was alarmed at how pushy these door-to-door salesmen were. They literally will not take no for an answer and they use some dreadful bullying tactics. One young man forced my father into showing him his back garden so he could assess exactly what the property required, even though my father had already said no several times. He was very intimidating and my dad didn't stand a chance. As soon as I popped my head outside, the intimidating scumbag soon left. Thank goodness!

Terrible isn't it? To think the only person who could be visiting an elderly person this week will be a scrupulous individual wanting to take a big chunk of an old person's life savings. Not a friend nor a relative.

Yes, I am a worrier, but I genuinely am concerned for the vulnerable people in our society. They deserve to better yet we forget about them too easily.

Teresa x