It's one of the monsters that hide under the beds of those with a heavy number of years on their shoulders; it comes out between 1:00 and 4:00 a.m. to waft it's "what ifs" around a wakeful brain. It's on my mind not because it's one of my personal ghoulies but because I'm spent many hours at work this week listening to tapes of people who are caregivers. I do not have answers but from what I hear I have ideas -- one is that we need medical education and also some emotional education. It's now available online for those who are even minimally computer literate -- but so many people are afraid to look up medical info. They think it'll be over their heads. Some sites are just that but there are informational organizations for nearly every disease with easy to understand information. Plus there are support groups in most locations where a facilitator can pass on helpful suggestions; and other can share their frustrations and findgins.
We've been told for too long that knowledge of our physical and mental workings is something for professionals. Thank heavens there are professionals who learn more all the time, but it's OUR bodies and minds. We must be responsible toward ourselves and respect the physical beings we are. I am deeply pained by the ignorance I've been listening to -- pained because ignorance brings on fear and confusion and pain for both patient and caregiver. We have to stop thinking a mental problem is shameful -- one daughter of a patient could not say the word Alzheimer's, she said 'memory issues," although she knew the word well enough. It's not shameful, it's a real physical disease. Other physical diseases make people act strange also but in different ways, that's often accepted.
People are saying, I don't know why she [the patient] acts this way, she was never like this. It's only my theory and I don't think doctors agree with me, but I think that as other veneer goes we become the children we were -- maybe sweet and shy, maybe angry and spiteful and selfish, maybe a spectrum of all those things that we were and then learned to overcome to live among civilized, adults. It's hard to accept that the sweet gramma or grampa can become a selfish, angry child -- but remember that we all had to be taught how to act around others.
Most of us learned that very, very well. Most of us are genuinely likable people, but we probably all went through the "terrible twos" and had there was no reasoning with those brats that we once were. Happily our brains matured and we learned to "be nice." If the brain's deteriorate and the civilization wears away like week old fingernail polish, it doesn't mean the person has become someone else. We are born human and we never stop being human. We need to learn true respect for all sensate beings, all humans first, all animals too, fish, bugs, even trees and plants, all living things. If we have that respect we will do what we can to make the world we live in better for all of us. It takes heart and then it takes education in that virtue called loving kindness that comes from understand others are just as human as we are.
Well, those were my rambling thoughts in the quiet moments after I have come to know a few people dealing with their ill parents, sighing a lot, mumbling a lot, sounding like people in a small row boat on a large lake already caught in a rainstorm and wondering what they'll do if there's hail or lightening.
ELDER MUSIC: The Band, Revisited - This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge an...
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