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The Injustice of Aging

You’re young. So very young. This post will seem like a lot of whinging about what a drag it is getting old.  You’ve witnessed several elderly patrons at your place of work fall; and as the compassionate soul you are, you have helped and identified the problems to management to assure the incident is not likely to happen again.  It is that kind of consideration that gives me faith in humanity.

I don’t believe you were aware of all of the things I witnessed while visiting my mom. As well as the things I am ashamed to falling prey as a caregiver having little to no experience with dementia other than my teenage self re-living the same frustrations I did when my great-grandmother came to live with us while she suffered from Alzheimer’s.

Society is bent on valuing youth; because… “The children are our future”. (Also the right end to a pageant question as proven by iCarly.)

However, these bright eyed gifts are molded by their elders. And they deserve some respect and care as they make their journey into the sunset.  This is merely to forewarn you of what lies ahead as you age.

It’s not just the physical or mental deterioration which you must endure on this journey. And might I just say, some of it was a complete surprise.

For example:

As you age, your digestion changes once again. To the point where you are slower to digest and certain complex foodstuffs you are not able to break down as you could in your youth. (becoming lactose intolerant was a shocker to me)

Your ability to see at night deteriorates as well. I recall my grandmother on my father’s side having me take the wheel after sunset in Laredo ( a town with which I was wholly unfamiliar)  because she could no longer see to drive. She drove a huge boat of a vehicle too.

Your kidneys are not as efficient as they once were. So they slow in the processing of wastes and you swell a lot if you tax them. (Think cankles and puffy feet) It’s actually painful.

Skin issues become a thing. Fungal infections, boils, yeast, suspicious growths, moles, skin tags, wrinkles, wens. Jesus I thought the dermatology visits were over when acne was resolved.

And this doesn’t affect you since you’re a guy… but the many plagues of menopause are shocking. Burning mouth syndrome, hot and cold flashes, mood swings far worse than PMS mood swings, the hemorrhagic instability of the in utero sloughing process. The sudden transformation into a carnival sideshow freak crossed with Frieda Kahlo. My beard if left to grow would be better than yours. I would stake a bet on it.

Your mind is not as sharp to grasp and hold onto items in short term memory. As you age it progresses while mid sentence. You cannot finish a fucking sentence while talking! Imagine the shame and embarrassment of that.  Some of it is funny like the “Where’s my [thing I cannot find but is on me the whole time]?” or the “What did I come in this room for anyway?” scenarios. Others are scary like losing a chunk of time and space while driving a route you’ve driven over and over. Or scary like attempting to place [some object] into [place where it does not belong].  And yet other are scary like not remembering if you had shampooed or rinsed your hair while you are in the shower. Or super scary like standing in that shower and not knowing what to do at all. You are simply frozen in indecision.

Aside from the obvious aging issues of diseases tied with old age, lifestyle based illness, poor reactions to viruses you once could recover with ease in your youth there is more.

There is harassment, discrimination and abuse.

Refer to this handy chart: 2018-08-17_14-56-49

I got to see some of this first hand while staying with my mother.

For the Financial Abuse:

  • The phone calls trying to scam her of money or scam her medicare coverage for services she did not need.
  • Care workers stealing from her instead of doing the work they were hired to do.
  • Neighbors charging her exorbitant amounts for services they had no need to do.
  • Pharmacy delivery people taking blank checks or forcing my mother to sign checks she clearly could not sign for the deliveries. (who knows how much they were taking out of her account)

For the Psychological:

  • Careworkers guilting my mother into allowing for them to not doing their job because she was not as bad off as they were.
  • My own response to frustrations of the symptoms of her disease as if I felt she was purposefully being uncooperative when clearly I did not understand how her functioning degrades as she grows more tired during the day.
  • Neighbors verbally harassing my mother over things she cannot control.

For the neglect:

  • Careworkers not showing up, showing up late, sleeping on shift, not doing the tasks for which they were assigned.
  • My mother not getting the right meds at the right time of day due to the mismanagement of her prescriptions in the pillbox
  • The horrible food choices delivered to her door once per day only 4 days a week. Never in a timely manner.
  • Not discarding spoiled or discarded food which might lead her to consume such by accident.

Luckily for my mother, I never once saw her physically abused. But that is not to say it didn’t happen in the nursing home. I have no proof of it.

There aren’t many protections or safeguards from elder abuse other than vigilant family members and case workers. As you grow older it becomes increasingly important to have a network of younger family and professionals who have your back. Don’t think you can go this alone.

And if you are obliged to become a caregiver to either me or your father, know these things:

  • It is exhausting.
  • It requires selfless giving, unlimited patience, compassion and non-judgement.
  • You become the parent of your parents.
  • There is support for caregivers when it gets to be too much.
  • It is a-okay to say you cannot do it and arrange for in home care or nursing home care.
  • If you choose to get outside help, you must never trust they have your parents’ best interests in their purview. Assume they are all out to take advantage of you or their situation to their benefit. Stay vigilant and always check up on their service.

On Strength and Weakness

I stumbled across a click bait slideshow of the 20 bitchiest quotes from Bette Davis a few days back and had to smile over the featured quote in this post. (source: flavorwire.com/512679/20-of-the-bitchiestbettedavisquotes)

I could think of several people who fit her description with whom I came into contact in my life. As such, her quote seems to me  brutally honest and I had wished someone would have shared this pearl of wisdom with me so I could have been more prepared to identify it before my energies were wasted in those relationships.

I find that what impressed me most is learning that Ms. Davis, in real life outside of acting, was just as brassy and open as many of the characters she portrayed. I always admired her craft. She chose such complex and outstanding roles of women, often intimidating, steely, cold and, yes, bitchy. But strong. Even when she had the challenge with the tragic Charlotte Vale, in “Now Voyager” she knocked the viewers’ socks off with her stunning performance, letting vulnerability and weakness take the forefront. That film was a game changer for me in my fandom of her work.

The thing is, I was surrounded by very strong and considerably bitchy women in my life. Never once did I see them exhibit any weakness which I thought was daunting. The expectation was that to be a survivor, a success, one never showed weakness. No matter how heavy the burden, you shoulder it. No pity parties, no crying. You do what needs to be done.

I survived because I was tougher than anybody else”– Bette Davis

I thought it was the norm that when the going got tough, you pull up your big girl/boy pants, take a breath and keep going. Mostly this is true because it is so easy to get lost in the drama of the situation and feel sorry for yourself and simply give up. Lately this week has given me pause in terms of not letting some of that weakness show. I cracked a little and finally let out the stress, the anxiety and the fear. I cried on the way to the grocery store. When I pulled in to park, I realized my eyes were more than likely swollen, puffy and my face very flushed. So for that moment of release, I sat there spending the time to pack it all back in, taking that deep breath and carry on.

I learned right there on the slow walk into the store, that moments of weakness are needed. I had to let it out as keeping it in was tearing me down, mentally and physically. Sometimes one can find more strength from showing or recognizing weakness and tending to it for just that moment. Asking for a break, a little help, or just disconnecting to let it out some.

One cannot be strong all the time and it is okay to take that moment to let the stress of the burden out; briefly, but out.  Denying the toll life’s challenges take on one’s self will manifest in different, more self-destructive ways. Recognize it and tend to it.