We owe so much to the elderly. They worked hard, brought us up, and taught us many of the values we hold dear. My parents helped me as a baby, living in total dependence on their care. When they were elderly and became more child-like and dependent themselves, it was only right that I returned the favour. I was there for them, overseeing their practical daily needs. I visited them in the hospital and was always available by telephone. In their latter years, I viewed my time with them as an investment rather than a chore. Yes, it was costly - but now they have gone I am so pleased that I did it.
It’s important to have the big picture in view too - what about elderly people in our local communities who are not our relatives? Many of them are unwell, vulnerable, and lonely. They don’t all have close relatives living around the corner to care for them. Let’s see how many ways you and I can make a difference in their precious lives.
ADOPT A GRANDPARENT
This is a very enriching experience, where we simply take someone under our wing to help them. At the lowest level in life, we simply say hi to an old person we pass in the street. That may be the only conversation they have that day. At the highest level, we treat someone as if they were family, through daily or weekly contact.
A REGULAR CHAT
Some people just need to talk - they have all their practical needs sorted. Would you be prepared to ring this person on a weekly basis to check they’re ok? If several people are doing this, set up a rota where you take turns. Then they won’t be inundated with calls on the same day, and lonely the next.
We all go shopping, so it isn’t too hard for us to include a few items someone else needs. That person may need a weekly prescription to be collected. Again, it's not majorly time-consuming to collect this from a pharmacy. This brings us to:
If you help someone elderly with their papers, forms and bills look at their medical situation too. Check if their medicare premiums are up to date. If you click here you’ll learn that Medicare supplement plans exist to fill some of the gaps that other insurance doesn’t. Consider whether they are eligible for medicaid or other such programmes. It all helps reduce the worry factor for elderly people who have a lot of time on their hands!
If you have a car, how about taking them to their medical appointments? That’s a huge help and saves money on taxi bills.
There are a number of bodies that exist to help elderly vulnerable people. At the lowest level, you could donate to them, to make someone’s life better. Consider volunteering for just a few hours a week. It could be anything from weekly shopping to phone calls to check they’re ok. Think of the Salvation Army, The Red Cross or Volunteers Of America. There are loads to choose from.
Even something as simple as moving someone’s bin can make a difference to someone. You’re probably fitter and stronger than they are, and the person may be housebound. If you say ‘I’m no carer or counsellor - I’m just practical’, that’s great! See if their garden needs doing or if they need a new lightbulb. What about a meal once a week, or some healthy snacks to bring round? Does this person have smoke detectors? They are inexpensive but can be invaluable where people have become forgetful and still do their own cooking!
If a person likes music, why not give them something to listen to? How about a birthday cake on a happy occasion? Elderly people spend a lot of their time looking into the past. Why not sit with them as they go through their old photo albums. Those times are priceless and make people feel valued.
If all you can do is check they’ve opened their curtains each day, which could really help distant relatives who can’t pop by to check. You could become the link person between the grandparent and the extended family. If you walk your dog daily, are you able to go past their house and let them stroke it? Animals are great stress relievers.
Sometimes we don’t want to get involved in case their needs escalate. We’re all busy with our own lives and commitments, right? We mentioned organisations earlier. There are local charities, authorities, and community centres that can be a valuable resource. When we connect the person to these, new help and care become available. It wouldn’t all be down to us.
When this person eventually passes away, think how sad you will be, having made a new special friend. You’ll be glad you did everything for them, and so will their family members.