Treat Them with Dignity

Cindy Sproles

Today’s society has lost a huge part of its compassion. The world of media brings loss, pain and tragedy into our lives at an overwhelming rate. As a people, we’ve become desensitized to the core values we were taught as children.

Baby Boomers were raised by parents or loved ones who believed in the validity of a handshake and the importance of treating others as they themselves expected to be treated. They held tight to work ethic, honesty, integrity, faith and dignity.

As our parents age, they are faced with the realization and loss of these basic staples of life. It’s a painful process when they must accept the inability to stand alone –lose their independence.

When your patience runs low or you feel the deep frustration that accompanies an aging parent, keep in mind what is hard for us as children is tenfold for our parents.

Remember as parents age and begin to repeat questions, that when we were children we constantly asked “Why?”

When they can’t seem to recall your name, remember there was a time when the only name we could repeat, was theirs. When their movements are slow and tedious, keep in mind, it was their loving hands which steadied us as we toddled. If a meal ends up on their clothes instead of in their mouths, don’t forget who patiently taught us to feed ourselves and then gently swiped the goo from our fingers.

Remember as our parents continue to grow older and personal cleanliness becomes a problem, it was they who walked us through potty training and who bathed the mud from our childhood antics, then re-cleaned the tub for the ump-teenth time. And when they lose their confidence after a fall, remember the numerous times they held us close after a tumble, then encouraged us to forge ahead. It was our parents who cheered us through the rough times as a child and who allowed us to lean against them as adults.

When you are frustrated with the added “stuff”—walkers, canes or wheelchairs which have to be lugged out the door and to the car just to take them to the post office, keep in mind the diaper bags, the bottles, the extra clothes, snacks and “stuff” they toted off their shoulder, while you rested on their hip, legs dangling and arms squeezing their necks. It was a chore then and it’s still a chore, but worth the effort—worth the love.

And most of all, when they meet with the fears of forgetfulness and the anxieties of being in unfamiliar surroundings, remember how they stood in the background, just in view, encouraging you to step forward, “You can do it.”

Finally, when the reality that they cannot be left alone digs deep into their hearts, remember they never left us alone, afraid, or ignored us as small children, but they kept us close at hand, always watching, always present…always there.

When the roles reverse, remember to love and treat the aging seniors with dignity and honor—for without them, we would be nothing. Everything we learned…we learned from our parents. If for nothing else, they have earned the right.

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