A dear friend and family physician recently shared a poem entitled, Not a Crabby Old Woman (author unknown). It serves as a good reminder of how easy it is to label an elderly patient under our care when they are having a difficult day or when we are overwhelmed by the many responsibilities of being a caregiver.
Seeing our patients, our senior residents, our elders as a real person who has lived a wonderful and vibrant life as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a grandmother, a volunteer, can bring much joy to them when aging is often wrought with difficulties, confusion and pain. It can also help us to develop deeper relationships and to show our compassion for the elders in our care.
While our medical, senior living, and hospice communities are front and center in providing care for our elders, the business requirements of running a successful operation can often make it difficult for caregivers to really get to know their patients or residents. However, there is a relatively simple solution to help us see our elders as their true selves – it is by helping them share their rich stories and life experiences, one nugget at a time.
Our Celebrating My Life™ program was designed in partnership with a number of forward thinking care communities to help their staff and volunteers bring meaningful programming to their patients/residents. We train them to facilitate small group sessions or to work one-on-one with elders as they share their Life Reflection Stories and Legacy Letters. When complete, these wonderful documents are preserved as hardcover short story books or archival letters. The participants are then honored during a celebration event attended by their family and community. What a powerful way to recognize and celebrate the rich lives of each of our elders in our care!
Each of the organizations we partner with have made a commitment to truly make a difference. They are not only improving quality of care, they are seeing a positive impact on patient/resident quality of life. Additionally, staff and volunteers find greater joy in their work. And of course, families are forever grateful for the tangible reminders of their loved one’s beautiful life memories.
Seeing our elders as real people who have lived wonderful lives, and helping them remember a lifetime of beautiful memories, can help soften the difficulties of aging. And we can all learn so much from the life experiences and wisdom of our elders. I am forever grateful for this privilege.
Read more about the Celebrating My Life program or call to learn how you can bring this exciting and meaningful program to your organization. And then share the poem as a reminder for each of us to see our elders, patients and residents as real people through their rich stories and memories.
Not a Crabby Old Woman (author unknown)
What do you see, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you are looking at me,
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try.”
Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,
As I do your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another,
A young girl of 16 with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet
A bride soon at 20 my heart gives a leap.
Remembering the vow that I promised to keep
At 25 now I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure, happy home;
A woman of 30 my young now grow fast;
Bound to each other with ties that should last…
At 50 once more babies play round my knee.
Again we know children, my loved one and me
Dark days are upon me my husband is dead;
I look at the future I shudder with dread,
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.
I’m an old woman now and nature is cruel’
T’is her jest to make old age look like a fool…
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years all too few gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, open and see
Not a crabby old woman, look closer –