Communication and Companionship.

I was browsing the other night, and came across this post from Vikki's Blog, The Red Chair Gallery. It is an interesting post about those elderly people we see around us all the time. How often do we take the time to find out "what their story is". You will have to go read her blog to know exactly what I mean.

I can remember from my "previous life", which is how I now refer to my time as a police officer in a small town, when I would get calls to respond to "unusual" or "unknown" problems. Mostly they were at the homes of elderly residents. Dispatch simply did not want to air for all to hear, that so and so needed her fridge filter changed or something to that extent. Doesn't quite sound like a law enforcement issue does it.

I came to find out that it was part of my "duties" as a small town cop. Many of our elderly simply wanted someone to talk to for a few minutes, so they would come up with what ever reason they thought would work. They could be very insistent, and demanding to the dispatcher. I began visiting some of them on a regular basis to save dispatch from receiving these unusual calls, for the dispatcher had no idea how to handle them.

I came to find out that most of them did not need the help, or even want to be looked upon as "needy". They simply wanted someone to talk to, some form of companionship. They were mostly the folks that could not get around any more, and had become prisoners in their own home. At the same time they did not want to be placed in any type of assisted living. Many had no family left to care for them, and friends had slowly died off.

What I discovered back then was that everybody I talked to seemed to think that some one else was taking care of them. I constantly got the "I thought the Senior coalition did that" or something like it. The problem was that when these seniors became home bound, and dropped off the social map, I don't want to say they were forgotten, but in a way they were. People still were aware of them, and knew them, they just thought there was family taking care of them or someone else. Therefore most people made no effort to offer help or companionship.

These seniors were full of fun and interesting stories of times past. The experiences they had and willingly related, when given time, were amazing to say the least. I found that if I came in and sat down to ask how their day or week had been, their face would light up. Pretty soon they started telling me stories of times past, some I was hard pressed to believe. There was one man that had ridden into the country on horseback when he was sixteen with a "six-shooter" on his hip. He had some wonderful stories of the area back then. And told me of having to cut chunks of ice from the river for shipment to Denver where it would stored in an ice house. I could not even imagine life with out a refrigerator, yet he had lived it.

I guess what I'm saying is look around, see if there are any of the elderly who just need a little companionship, and someone to tell their stories to. They may not ask for help, or want help, just companionship. Make friends and wait, sooner or later they will tell you stories both true and amazing. And just enjoy the companionship for what it gives them.

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10 comments:

Chat Blanc (aka Sandy) said...

Wow! great post! And bless you for having taken the time for the older folks in that small town. I'm sure it meant the world to them. :)

Kel said...

You know, it is simply amazing how very LITTLE I know of your life after the folk's divorce and I left town for college.

These visits to your blog are becoming . . . well, crap, I'm not sure how to word it. It's like receiving a surprise package, and being surprised and charmed and intrigued and saddened all at once. Saddened because I am only now realizing just how much of my youngest brother's life was, until recently, lost to me. And, as the oldest, I'm feeling a weird guilt thing about that.

I don't know if you know, but mother and dad covered my first two years of college, and then I covered the last two. I worked the first two years at nursing homes to cover my gas & play money (you may remember I was living with Gram until her stroke). The last two years of college the work at the nursing homes paid my rent, food, and books money.

I was luck enought to find the Julia Temple Center in the Denver area to work for. An amazing place; a nursing home for elders with varying degrees of mental illness. It was a locked-ward facility, which might initially give one an uncomfortable flash back to "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest," but the reality was 180 degrees from that.

It was there that I realized that I really, REALLY, dig elders. I've never had much patience with children (not even my own, alas), but elders have the ability to wrap me around their little fingers in a heart beat.

I actually found myself tearing up reading your post above. To find that you, also, have a soft spot for elders is . . . so cool.

Kel said...

(sigh) . . . luck"Y" enough . . .

I think I need to construct my comments off the site, close them for an hour or two, and then come back in an post them. But that would lesson the "immediacy" of the moment . . . blrrrrpppp!

tashabud said...

Eric,
I enjoyed reading this post. I can tell you're such a softie as I am. Hehehe. Hey there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's an admirable personal trait, especially in a man.

Coincidentally, one of the reasons that I wasn't able to do much blogging last week was because I had to attend to my elderly neighbors who are in their 80's. They're both doing much better now. And yes, it is captivating to listen to them talk about their lives' past. If I can only do justice to write their life story, it would be so awesome.

Have a great week.

tashabud said...

Kel,
I must tell you that I cried as I read your comment to Eric. And I'm crying again as I write this comment. You wrote such a very touching letter to your brother, which really tugged at my heart. It's just so awesome to read of how you're rediscovering your brother through his blog.

I can use a real good cry, and reading your comment and writing this comment surely have accomplished it.

You're welcome at my blog if you ever want visit. Have a great day.

Jena Isle said...

Hi Eric, based on your post, I can discern that you're a generous and caring person, even to people whom you don't really know.

It was very touching to know that you opted to spend time with these elderly persons, even amidst your busy schedule as a policeman. This actions speaks of great character.

Indeed these people need attention and love too. You have given them that for spending time with them.

I salute you and may your tribe increase.

Kel said...

Tashabud ~

I know what you mean about sometimes needing a good cry.

I look forward to visiting your site, as I have enjoyed reading your comments on Eric's ruminations.

There is a "rule" found in the published traditions of many Pagan and Wiccan traditions known as the Rule of Three; the things we do roll forward to the edges of creation and then rebound upon us much as the waves in a small pond rebound back in toward the splash center when one tosses a rock into the pond ~ the Rule of Three holds that good works rebound upon us threefold, and that wrongful/hurtful works rebound three fold as well.

I shall borrow that grand notion, and wish the gift of time with your elder neighbors to reflect back to you threefold when you need it most.

Eric S. said...

Chat Blank, Thank you, I was motivated by Vikki's post, and my memories of those stories I received from the folks I talked to. I have to admit I had a selfish motive in stopping in to talk with them. I enjoyed their stories so much, and really enjoyed the feeling I got from talking with them.

Kel, It is strange how "our family tradition" of, I can only describe it as lack of communication, is changing for me. I still do not telephone unless there is something wrong, and I cringe when I see a family number on the caller ID. But this blog is indeed "changing" me in a small way. Don't be sad, or ashamed, it lies in our genetic makeup.

No I did not know you worked in a nursing home, but it does not really surprise me. You always had that good nature about you.

As for children, we all have patients in our own way. There are things we each will put up with, and those we won't. I think that boils down to our sense of discipline.

I think we get our "soft spot" for the elderly from Mom. All those years she worked at the Hospital. I can remember times going through the Nursing Home side, and visiting with all the "Tenants". I remember looking forward to that even as young as 6.

I know what you mean about the typo’s, some times it’s hard to catch them.

Tashabud, Yes I am a softie, (Don’t tell anyone). I usually don’t show that side of myself, this blog is defiantly having an effect on me. I was brought up not to show your feelings, or for that matter interests. The thinking behind it was that if you show too much of yourself, you expose your weakness’s for everyone to see. This is a trait that was handed down from my father, and is just now being relaxed a little.

I am so glad your elders are doing better. Enjoy their stories, thoughts, and history as long as you can. I think these days we lose so much just because many people don’t take the time to listen to the “ramblings” of our elders. Given time, you will find the words to relate their stories with great compassion.

I’m not even going to try understand why you would want a “good cry”. I guess it’s a girl thing.

Jena Isle, Thank you very much. I would like to believe I am generous and kind, but I will leave that for others to decide. As I said earlier, I had selfish motivations to visit with them. But I do acknowledge that we all benefited, me for receiving those stories related through them, and the feeling I got seeing them tell their stories. Them for the small amount of companionship they received.

As to the busy schedule, I do not wish to mislead you, this is a town of 500 people, and the majority of my time was spent sitting on Main St. running radar. There was not much activity, except when I worked for some reason. I was know as a “Fecal Attraction Device” or (Shit Magnet). If something was going to happen it did so on my shift.

redchair said...

Eric,
I was just stunned when I came to your blog. No one told me!! You did this wonderful tribute to my blog stories and I didn't know. Thank you so much. Can't begin to tell you how much this means to me.

My neighbor, Helena, is doing fine. Pretty amazing for 84. I go over daily just to see how she is and visit.

She decided she liked my summer flip flops that I was wearing. So, we had to get her a pair on Monday. She’s enjoyed them so much, she called and said we need to go back to the store today! She needed 3 more pair in various colors to match all her different summer ensembles. (I mean what’s a girl to do with only one pair of flip flops?!)

She’s a character and I’m really enjoying her.
Vikki

Eric S. said...

Redchair, Your welcome, and I should be the one saying thank you. It was your post that so inspired me to remember the good stories that had been related to me. In doing so, it made me remember how good I felt when I saw these wonderful people "light up".

I am so glad things are going good for Helena. I got a kick out of the flip flop issue. You have to understand your talking with someone who owns 1 pair of tennis shoes, and 2 pairs of boots, one for work and one for dress. Not hard to color coordinate when all you where is blue jeans, LOL.

Thanks for coming by.

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