What I Learned From an Awesome Old Lady
“They’re gonna make me take a shower, but I’d like to see someone stick them in that freezing room!”
I used to take care of this older woman who would say things like this. She was a great grandmother, she had a perm, she always wore an undershirt with a turtleneck sweater over it. The most difficult kind of shirt to put on her! I remember the way she would stare at me through the super thick glasses she wore. Her face would be screwed up so that her wrinkles pulled tight as she tried to concentrate on me.
One day I walked in the room and I saw her mouth was in a tight little line. She just kept staring at the floor and picking at her pants. I filled her water container, no ice, the way she liked it. The whole time she was muttering.
“I don’t care, I’m a bug. I could crawl right out of this place and no one would stop me, since I’m a bug.”
Turns out she was being treated for a UTI. Confusion is a good sign of a possible infection. My poor lady. I just could not get what she had been saying out of my head. After passing all the fresh water and ice to my residents I returned to her room and tried to draw her out.
There she was, most of the time not understanding who was coming in and out of her room. Why we had to wake her up in the middle of the night to make sure she was dry and comfortable. The reasons for getting her up early every morning to be for breakfast which started at 7a.
She had no control over her life. Her mind was not as fast and didn’t connect or remember like it did when she was younger. Yes, she had family that visited every single day, even multiple times a day, but she couldn’t always remember that.
It was just so profound to me. I can’t really put into words how this made me feel. Sure, it’s a natural part of this life. We get older, suddenly we get to where we just can’t take care of ourselves anymore. We need help, then more help until there we are, stuck in a place where we have absolutely no control.
Truthfully, we don’t have a ton of control, even as fully-functioning adults. Things happen that blindside us, plans don’t always work out, we get sick, or one of our family member’s get sick and everything in our life changes.
This experience opened my eyes. Even though I had been working with the elderly for a long time. Taking care of their most basic needs, it wasn’t until this moment that it really hit me, how we will all get to that point one day. It doesn’t matter who we are, how healthy we have been in our life. We will be old and wrinkly, confused and bewildered.
It hasn’t changed me much. I love people, especially the older ones who have lived such full lives and are so willing to share their experiences with others. I am less quick to judge. I see someone and I realize that no matter what might be at the surface I do not know them.
I try my best to be kind, especially when the other person is pouring out hostility and negativity. You never know when the slightest bit of kindness shown will be the positive spark that changes their whole day into something so much better.
The point is, we interact with countless people every, single day. We can either be another irritant or we can be a positive force for good in their lives. I’m not saying that you need to go out of your way to make strangers happy. I’m telling you to be mindful of how you treat others in simple ways. It will make you happy as well.
Most people follow the general rule of treating others how you want to be treated. When you actively do this, doesn’t it make you feel better too?
Yes, there will be times when, as with my lady in the nursing home, you can’t always be so helpful. However, by understanding that we all have the power to show kindness, which in turn allows others to show kindness, is a kind of amazing super-power. Not because it’s difficult. I think of it like the rings on a tree, for every ring that counts as another year that the tree has been alive. Well, for each person who is kind to someone, it balloons out until, from just one, tiny act of kindness, countless people have been effected in a positive way.
This is my goal. No matter how awful this world is, and how anxious or sad I might be, I can help the people around me to be positive and joyful!