As the number of people caring for an older adult rapidly increases, the conversation is, at last, bubbling to the surface. Questions of deep emotion are being asked. Because the pioneers who have been caring for a family member or PIN, (person in need), are no longer laboring in silence. They want to share, they need to share their experience, the wisdom gained and the changes in their own soul.
One cannot cross the rubicon of washing a parents naked body, helping with toileting, or spoon feeding someone who is terribly frail, without deep introspection about life in general.
To witness the breakdown of the vessel, or to marvel at its durability does not sit lightly on the heart. It lingers. It pushes into your old life and your routine day before you became a caregiver. It asks questions of you. “Am I caring for my body?”
“Can I dig deeper and do more?” “Could someone else be more patient?” “Why do my best intentions give way to frustration and tension?” “Who would care for me?”
“Would I deserve it?” “Could I accept care?” “How am I going to pay for this?” “ How did I arrive at this point in life so soon!”
It’s an endless stream of prickly questions and introspection. And then you finally sit down and are toast. If you have to explain the thermostat one more time you will buckle. If the TV remote cannot be managed, what will you do? Will this get better or worse?
But the other side is the sweet side. The tiny slivers of light where a PIN smiles with genuine happiness, where you see health improving with some care and company, when the depression of aging gives way to wisdom and some joy. When a 90 year old says yes to Fuchsia fingernails and silver shoes! Much like raising a child, with days and weeks of diaper changes, sticky fingers, endless questions and then they WALK!
I am mostly struck by the changes in my own soul. A deep scouring of rough edges to find a center that has more light. Kalil Gibran said of love :
“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.”