If I were to give the year 2010 a label, based on what I 've experienced in my life and witnessed in the lives of some of my friends, it would be "The Year of Concerns for our Parents and Other Older Relatives." It's a long label and probably won't catch on but it captures the essence of what I mean.
Prior to this year, there were some health issues among the parents of people I knew, including my own, and sadly there were some deaths. Of course, this can happen at different ages and does. What's different this year is that it's not rare for one of us to be concerned about an older relative. It seems that we've reached a new stage that may be here to stay.
Since the start of the year, without getting too specific, I have heard about elder abuse, major surgeries, the need to move to seniors' accommodations, a diagnosis of Alzheimer's and of older people dealing with illness and injury. As well, I know of a great lady who recently passed at the age of 95.
I have not had to help older people too much before. I expect that this is true for some of my peers as well. Suddenly we are worrying, listening to new concerns, accessing resources and trying to help. I hope that we do manage to help when we're needed, however unfamilar this feels.
If this area is new and strange to us, though, it must be more so to our elders. They have been the adults for quite a while and now they really need some help and care. It can't be easy for them to feel vulnerable, perhaps scared and unsure of what happens next.
I suppose what got me thinking about this issue is that I walked down a street today behind a couple that live near me. I have heard that the man has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. My heart broke as I watched them walking on this sunny day. He was carrying some simple groceries and wearing a baseball cap. While I don't know them well, these people seem to have led a quiet, good life. I just don't understand why this had to happen. These two lovely people need whatever help can be given to them. I hope that some of it makes things at least a little bit better. I hope that they still enjoy some things.
I know that in some situations, there is not a lot we can do to really fix things. If only we could. I hope that as we address the new needs and concerns, our efforts help. We will not be perfect and we don't have all the answers but it seems trying and caring should go some way to helping. And I know that my friends and I do care. It's a start.