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On Friday I filmed a commercial for a geriatric care facility. The lady I worked with was a hoot - a Minnie Pearl impersonator (no, really!) and she had my recently-deceased Grandmother's hair do. I kept fluffing it for her, and seemed pleased. She also enjoyed that I asked her if she went to the Beauty Box, as that was my where my G-ma went for her weekly style and bluing. Hee.

For those that haven't been following these posts of mine about what it's like on set, there is a lot of standing around for the actors, waiting for things to get set up, etc. We filmed in the actual care center, by the way. We were in the way for a lot of the time, but the patients seemed really excited by our activity. Also, it was Get Your Picture With Santa Day.

A huge long line of the elderly in their wheelchairs snaked through the facility so they could get a Polaroid taken, and maybe get their families to see it. Maybe not. I tried to engage with anyone that came by because A) I'm not a douchebag and B) I know that a lot of these people go day after day without visitors. Many of them (the majority, actually) just sat in their chairs, staring down. I couldn't get them to interact. And I came to realize that a lot of them didn't EXPECT me to, so they were just tuned out. One man was in his chair, pulling himself along the hallway with his feet, looking down. People walked past, dragged bags, etc etc and he would just stop, wait for them to maneuver around him, and then trudge along. He made me the saddest. He knew that everything else - including a bag of garbage someone was pulling along - got priority over him and his wheelchair, on his way to lunch.

There were a few ladies that just cracked me up, though. I asked this one woman who HAD to be in her 90s "And how are you feeling this holiday, young lady?" And she GIGGLED and WINKED at me. HEEE. I'm smiling just remembering it. A few other ladies commented on our filming. "Gosh, it sure doesn't look that exciting for you all." (Me and the other actress.) Then she would tell her companion that she couldn't wait to tell her children that a movie was being made right there in her home. Ha ha ha. Um, not a movie, but whatever. She'll have an exciting story to tell for a bit.

One scene we filmed was in a long corridor that had a breezeway that spilled into the middle of it. We had the ends of the corridor blocked but forgot to block the breezeway entrance. This elderly chap (again, late 80s, earlier 90s) sauntered in wearing a jaunty cap and carrying a schnazzy cane and demanded us to tell him what in blazes we thought we were up to. A nurse told him we were making a commercial and he informed her that that was impossible, because he hadn't been notified. We asked him where he was headed to (to try and expedite things) and he let us know in no uncertain terms that he didn't know, but he'd figure it out. LOL. He also tipped me a wink and then left to see "what the ladies were up to today." Hahahahaha. <3

Now, trust me when I say that I get that some of our relatives are difficult. I have one in particular that couldn't pay me to come to their death bed. But they can't ALL be that person, right? When my grandfather (paternal) was at his last days (he died at just shy of his 100th birthday) my grandmother came to see him twice a day. She got to know every one of the residents and very often was the only person that visited with many of them. I remember being a kid (about 10?) and going with her to visit Grandpa. It always scared me, those older people that didn't look like MY older people. There was one woman in particular that sat in her chair in the middle of the hallway and would reach out to us as we walked past and cry out. She terrified me. My grandmother pulled me aside and told me that "she was just so lonely and missed her grandkids."

A few days ago my son and I were at a craft store (he's learning how to crochet) and an older woman saw us picking out yarn. She commented on that, then began to tell us the story of her father in his last years, how she taught him how to knit and how he would make the most 'beautiful baby blankets' for the young women in his neighborhood. We politely listened to her for a bit, then, at a natural break in the convo, we moved on. My son couldn't get her out of his mind for days. "Mom, I think that woman was really lonely and didn't have anyone to talk to. I wish we had stayed longer." He's a good kid, my son. <3 And pretty freaking intuitive at times.

I don't know, all of this dreariness has to go somewhere, right? Maybe this January you just drop by a facility and see if they need anyone to play cards with some of the residents. January is always the thinnest month for places like that and charities. You'll hear some stories that you'll remember for ever, I bet.

I moved in with my grandmother (she of the "she's just lonely, sweetheart" conversations) in her last months, caring for her after her stroke. Those were some of the most precious times I ever had with her. Were they hard? Absolutely, I was 22 at the time and at the height of my selfishness. Some nights I had to carry her - literally in my arms - to bed. Some days she couldn't remember that she'd done something and ended up making four batches of corn fritters, all made wrong, too. But some days we pulled out the architecture legos my sister and I played with as kids and I'd build something for her and we'd watch chaste romances (she was devoutly Mormon) and she'd tell me things about herself that she hadn't told anyone before. (We were both middle children with "glamorous and popular" older siblings.)

She died a few months after, but I always remember watching Anne of Green Gables with her and marveling over how handsome we both had always found Gilbert Blythe. :) [And for those who will get the reference, even Rachel Lynde had her good points in the end, didn't she?]

Just... they can't all be disposable, folks. Are some of them racist? Yep. Grumpy? Negative Nancys? Sure thing. But maybe you'll be a force to help change their minds - and maybe you won't. But I bet you'll feel better for trying. And for those of you that are caring for your elderly and/or infirm parents: you have my utter respect, and I wish you a bit of peace of your own this holiday. It's a hard job that doesn't get enough credit. Just know that I admire the hell out of you.

Comments

( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
lynnenne
Dec. 21st, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
I love you and I want you to come and look after me when I'm old and can't pee by myself.
stoney321
Dec. 21st, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
I love you, too, but I'm not gonna lie to you: those undies can hold 2 pounds of liquid and they're GONNA. :D
... - lynnenne - Dec. 21st, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
a2zmom
Dec. 21st, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
You are a beautiful person.
stoney321
Dec. 21st, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
You are, missy. <3
windstar
Dec. 21st, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
I always liked Rachel Lynde. One of my family "memories" is watching AOGG with my daughter, and her screaming with delight when Anne dyed her hair green. She still loves to watch those movies, we own all 3 in a box DVD set.

I have a little care center down the street from our house, and my daughter and I visit as often as we can, all throughout the year, because yes...some of those people are just SO lonely.
stoney321
Dec. 21st, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
My girls and I will be putting it on later today and watching them all, too.

How awesome that you and your daughter do that! You're setting an excellent example.
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ethrosdemon
Dec. 21st, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
LET'S OPEN A NURSING HOME FUNMUNITY!

I love old people! (My mother is a geriatrician so I've been in and out of elder care facilities--current jargon term--my whole life.)
stoney321
Dec. 21st, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
OKAY LET'S DO THAT!! We can have a Boca Theme Week!

I love old people too. There was a man sitting in a chair at Sam's just now, looking like someone abandoned him. Turns out he was flirting with the older woman that was passing out crackers with peanut butter on them, hee.
mumsisdaughter
Dec. 21st, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
What a touching post. I'm lucky that my parents, 76 and 80, are still hale and hearty but husband's parents are both gone, though were still active until a month before they died. It must be soul-destroying for those who have no visitors--all those memories just waiting to be passed on to someone who'll listen. Without deliberately sitting down with my grandparents about 20 years ago, I wouldn't have the full and detailed Family Tree I have now. Amazing to think that they had been born in the 19th century, before aeroplanes and electricity etc. My grandfather told me how he had climbed into a garden to steal apples when he was a child and been spotted by an old man who sat him down for a talk. The old man had been born in the year of the Battle of Trafalgar 1805. There are so many tales waiting to be told.
stoney321
Dec. 21st, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE THAT STORY!!!

My dad's siblings all took turns sneaky-recording my grandfather talk about his childhood, etc., and presented him with a movie of his life (with still shots over him telling stories) for his 90th birthday. SO AWESOME.
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stoney321
Dec. 21st, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, that poor dear. I remember you telling me about her and how much she loved her independence. But sometimes it's in a person's best interest to make sure they have steady PROPER care due to their health. My step-mother's father recently passed away, and he was able to live in an apartment next to the care facility, and had a nurse that checked in on him several times a day. It did a tremendous job on keeping his morale up, giving him several more years than they originally thought he would have.

I'm making my parents (and the Mr.s) tell us what they want - the type of care, etc. I'm fortunate to be close to both sets for when the inevitable happens. But I know everyone doesn't have that, and I just feel for them.
brunettepet
Dec. 21st, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
What a heart felt, heart warming post. There's a residential care facility just a couple blocks away and I try to engage residents when I meet them out on my walks. A couple times, I've had hour long conversations while going on a verrrry slow constitutional through the neighborhood. It really does the heart good to find women and men in their late 80's or early 90's still so sharp and interesting and interested. I hope I'm like that when I reach my eighth or ninth decade on earth!
stoney321
Dec. 21st, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
You're pretty awesome, I hope you know. And yes, it's so fun to have a lively conversation with a much older person and to hear their stories. I, too, hope that I'm able to be sharp. (I already know I'll be a crazy cat lady, lol.)
arcana_j
Dec. 21st, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
After many visits to my great aunt in one of those horrible places, I promised my mother I would never put her in one. She's 74 now, disabled, and drives me insane with how unpleasant/horrible she can be at times. She's lived with us for seven years now. Getting my brothers to visit is damned near impossible. But I'm keeping my promise.

Ok, so maybe I'm not always keeping it with with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, but I'm keeping it because promises matter. I couldn't just kick her to the curb. She's my mother, ya'know?

I'd be lying if I said that every day was bad, it's just that when the bad days come, they come with a vengeance.

Please tell me I get some good karma for this?
morianna1
Dec. 21st, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)
The greatest joy of my life was taking care of my mother in her last days. She passed away, peacefully, at home. It was the best and worst of times and I wouldn't trade a second of it. It was the greatest gift I could give the woman who gave me life. It wasn't easy. I mourned her for years. I miss her still. But I am grateful and glad for every moment we had together.

Good karma, and blessings galore.
... - stoney321 - Dec. 22nd, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - arcana_j - Dec. 22nd, 2009 09:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
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stoney321
Dec. 22nd, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
I think it's the loneliness that hurts me for them. We're surrounded by people, we can access people so easily online, and yet some of us still have no one to talk to. Thank goodness there are lovely people such as yourself.

"I hope that some day someone pays me the same courtesy." Hear, hear! <3
dovil
Dec. 21st, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
A lovely post from a lovely lady. I'm currently wearing a purple polyester suit and clicking my fingers at you.

The best thing about hanging out with the elderly - swapping their medication with tic tacs. That's how I finance my holidays, and trust me, sometimes it's good to be out of the country what with all the dead people and weeping families - such a kill joy!
stoney321
Dec. 22nd, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
You know, I firmly believe that the two of us should be put in the same elder care facility in Boca. If only to be hell on wheels for the other patients. I'll put it in my living will that this person from NZ is to be flown over to room with me at the Happy Acres Retirement Club.

And to provide for our weekly booze.
chrryblssmninja
Dec. 21st, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, my bedridden grandmother can be extremely difficult to deal with at times, but I like how I can walk into her room and she remembers all our little inside jokes. Also, we can't help but snicker when she starts arguing with people in the TV.
claudia6913
Dec. 21st, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
I must say, I work for a doctor's office that goes out and visit's people in their homes. (There's a few in TX pass the word. ;p ) I'm the receptionist and I'd say the vast majority of patients we have are elderly living at home. There are many days I spend a half hour or more just listening to them chatter on about this and that before handing them to the nurse's to be taken care of.

Yes, some are ridiculously annoying, grouchy, mean (to the point of cursing me all the time 'cause the nurse is on the other line), but most of them are not. Most are sweet, kind, and just a doll to have around.

We had a patient with mild Dementia and she was the sweetest woman I think I'd ever talked to. Always wanting to invite the Doctor over for lunch and giggled after every sentence. She died within a month of being our patient. I miss her.
stoney321
Dec. 22nd, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
My in laws have a doctor that will care for them in their home, too. I asked them to explicitly lay out what they wanted if they became gravely ill, etc., and my father in law was very firm: I'm in my own home with care givers. Can do!

Oh, she sounded so sweet, I love an older person's giggle. I'm glad she had such kind caregivers in the end, we all hope we have that!
midnightsjane
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)
You have a huge and beautiful heart.
I am not afraid of getting old, as long as I can do it the way my Mom and my aunts did. Mom was almost 92 when she died, and she was still as sharp in her mind as always, although her body was frail. She was a strong woman, who had the most optimistic outlook on life. I remember her saying to me once that she would look in the mirror somedays and think "who the hell is that old lady?" Because she never felt old.
Back in 1971, I worked in a Veteran's Hospital; on our ward there were 2 of the most amazing gentlemen; Mr. Darling and Mr. Jones. They were both veterans of the Boer War(!), in their 90's, and just delightful. We would have long conversations about life and history, and I was really fond of them both. I remember another patient too, Mr. Moon...who was obsessed with his bowels. At least 10 times a day he would come up to me and say in the loudest voice: "Sister! What are you going to do about my bowels?" LOL.
I want to be tough and feisty and proud to be old...because it's going to happen one day soon enough. So it's good to have role models.
stoney321
Dec. 22nd, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
Ahahahaha, "Sister! What are you going to do about my bowels?" Heee! That's how this older man in his cap was at the shoot, bluster, but with a secret wink to me. Love it.

ANd such a good point: role models of HOW to be a graceful, fun, lively, spunky person when you become aged is important.

Oh, I'm just loving all of these sweet stories from y'all. They are very hopeful! <3
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stoney321
Dec. 23rd, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)
It's a mama thing. :D

Oh, that's a GREAT idea for you, and seriously, it's a win-win, there is no bad there.

(And no worries, I've been sewing these damned birds for days on end and haven't gotten your package out, either, but now I'll have a new CD of chorale music for you, so see? CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. After the face. Or something. :D)
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )

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Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

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