An open letter,
I wiped your mother's tears tonight at dinner in the care home.
She shared with me she is tired. She told me she does everything they ask her to. She didn't want to come to dinner; she just wanted to go to bed. She told me no one listens to her, no one cares. I hugged her and tried to assure her there are people who care.
Silently, I wondered if there really are.
I have watched her decline over the weeks. Usually bright and smiling as she sat in her wheelchair waiting by the door.
Is she wondering if today will be the day you come to visit?
She is not alone, there are many others. Over the course of the past year, since moving my mother to assisted living, I have come to know many of them.
We smile and exchange pleasantries of the day when I arrive each day; they have come to know me. I suspect they look forward to my arrival, an acknowledgment from someone, someone to validate their existence, to confirm they are not invisible and forgotten.
Care facilities, like many medical institutions, are understaffed. Patient staff ratios leave much to be desired. The staff does the best they can, some better than others. Time is everything. There's so much for the staff to do, and everything takes so long with the aged.
Patience with the young is easy, children grow up and become independent.
With the elderly, it's the reverse. What takes a few minutes today, can take forever tomorrow. What was simple yesterday today is puzzling and complicated.
No one wants to be there. No one wants to feel abandoned and alone. Where are you?
Sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, granddaughters and grandsons?
These are the people who raised you and made you what you are today.
This is your family. A few hours a week would make all the difference in their lives.
As parents, we selflessly give up everything for our children, now is the time to give back. They need you more than you know. They talk about you, I know, I am there, I listen.
I work full time in an industry where additional hours and travel are the norm. I have five grandchildren I rarely see. I rationalize they will be there long after my elderly mother passes. I hope they will allow me to be a part of their lives when that day comes.
For now, I am all my mother has, how do I deny her? She tells me how frustrated this part of her life is, how ready she is to die.
They say to live each day like there is no tomorrow. This is reality in extended care. Today could be the last day of one's life.
Do you really want your mother or father to die feeling you were too busy to be a part of their lives?
I know I don't.
Make the effort, don't procrastinate, tomorrow may be a day too late.
Shelley Franklin Richmond