Joy and Challenges of Caring for Seniors

Followers of this blog know that I have a cadre of people I call my “senior pals,” or LOLITS (little old ladies in Tennis Shoes.) I have 16 “regulars” who live near me and for whom I look after in various ways.

Mostly, I take them grocery shopping two or three times each month. Occasionally, I will do some home fix-it jobs to enable them to live safely in the home where they live. I also may, as time permits, take them to medical appointments if they are unable to drive themselves.

I also have one senior who my Spouse and I look after — the Spouse’s mother — who is not a joy, unfortunately. The comparisons and contrasts are stark.

I try…

…in many ways to share joy. My local LOLITS are generally well-educated, open-minded, and enjoy the company of friends as they go about living out their winter years. Some have health issues of old age and are managing as best they can.

Our U.S. Thanksgiving is a pinnacle of senior joy — over 100 people participated in our “no senior will be alone pot-luck Thanksgiving Feastival,” which is a lot of work but a huge success of joy, love, and lots of laughter.

My local LOLITS have a mindset similar to my own. They care about people around them, our country’s future, and are as sad and disgusted as I am with the nastiness in the political arena. They also (for the most part) are as embarrassed as I am about the prime occupant of the White House, wondering what he will tweet next when he has a shitstorm tantrum at 5am about something he has lied about or done wrong, but deflects blame to others.

Contrast that with the mother-in-law who is aging in place in the house she has known for 65 years and knows nowhere else. Her husband passed away in 2003. She refuses to consider moving to a facility where she can have better care, meals prepared, laundry services, and more social interaction. Every time we try to bring up this issue, she thinks that we are going to “send her to a home to die” and shuts the conversation down with a fury of anger.

We do the best we can by arranging in-home caregiving to the degree that she will accept it (she will not be cared for by someone who is not of her same race). Spouse spends endless hours managing her in-home services, paying her bills, and ensuring that she can live comfortably in her own home. Bless him — it is hard to do those things remotely from a distance of 250 miles.

MIL has no other family who live closer to her than we do. She has no friends, and no one who lives near her who will help out. The social services network in the area, including her church, are overextended, underfunded, and can’t help her.

She has neurotic and paranoid tendencies, thinking that everyone is out to get her. She has seen her neighborhood turn over in population several times. Her neighborhood is poor and really run-down. Thus, most of the people who live on her street are barely making ends meet and do things “off the books” to make money, like the hooker who lives next door (true story) or the drug dealers down the block. No wonder she distrusts everyone.

MIL has very negative opinions about her neighbors and that reflects how she lives by isolating herself in her home. She is also afraid to go out, even in her own yard, for fear of falling. She knows that a fall at her age could well be a death sentence. She has about a sixth-grade education. She is oblivious to the world around her and does not understand what she hears on the TV news.

So this Christmas, like many of my past ten years or so, is a Christmas of contrasts.

This past weekend, I took all 16 of my local LOLITS grocery shopping. Since The Spouse and I will be at MIL’s house this coming weekend, I had to “pack in” the grocery shopping and senior fix-it projects into two short recent weekend days since I will not be home.

During these grocery store and in-home visits, there was impromptu singing of Christmas carols in grocery stores. There were smiles, laughter, and fun. There were some serious discussions, too, about the state of our country’s and this world’s affairs. But most of all, our weekend was busy, but filled with joy.

My senior pals know that I am very unhappy with the National Embarrassment (aka “the DIC”) and his rich-buddy cronies. My lovely LOLITS share their longer-time historical perspective to help me realize that things have been bad before and our country survived. So yes, come 2020, we can change things for the better.

But my feeling of the approaching weekend and Christmas itself is dread. We will do what we must to care for the only living parent among the two of us. I’ll cook, Spouse will clean, and we will watch endless Hallmark Christmas movies to pass the time for a long, lonely, Christmas.

We will…

… show those we love how we love her (no matter how difficult that will be) because

Life is short.