Caring for Frail Neighbors

Caring for frail neighbors can save lives during weather disasters. This week the #bombcyclone put our village through a week of the coldest weather I can remember. Today the temperature rose from MINUS 5 Fahrenheit  to 18 degrees. Yet, somehow it actually felt warm!

Caring for Frail Neighbors

When my mom was here, I suffered from a sense of desperate loneliness during weather events like this. Even though we usually had enough fuel and food, the people who supported us could not get to our house. Snow, ice, and school cancellations kept them at home. Now that mom is receiving care in a 24-hour setting, I don’t face the same barriers and isolation. Though I’m often sad about her absence, I now have more time to help others living around me.

There are several older neighbors in my community who suffer from serious health problems. Mary, for example, lives on the lane behind our property. She took care of her sick husband for many years. He had multiple heart operations with many different complications. Like me, she suffered shoulder dislocations from lifting a loved one when there was no one available to help. Mary served as a home #caregiver who looked after her husband until the very end of his life.

Mary also helped me on many occasions during my mother’s illness. Hardship never stole her sense of humor or spiritual faith. But now she’s the one suffering from health problems. Despite her physical limitations, Mary hates to ask for help. Like so many elders, she won’t admit when she needs assistance.

When caring for frail neighbors or family

It’s easy to think that elders turn down offers of help because they’re being  proud or stubborn. But an interesting research study from the University of Oregon helps explain why many elderly people refuse aid from people who care about them. Professor Michelle Barnhart found that elders were less likely to accept help if the person offering assistance made them feel old.  

According to Barnhart,”Almost every stereotype we associate with being elderly is something negative, from being ‘crotchety’ and unwilling to change to being forgetful. Conflicts come up when someone does not think of themselves as old — but people in their family or caregiving group are treating them as such.”

The findings from this research can be very helpful when you’re reaching out to an older friend or family member. When my mom first got sick, she got furious the day I suggested she get involved in something fun at the Senior Center. Why? Because Senior Centers are for old people! So as you check in on the elders in your life — whether you’re worried about their memory or their food supply — try to offer help in a way that treats their age as a well-kept secret.

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