I’m afraid of old people. Well, not really. It’s just that I never really had spent time with the elderly. Other than my grandmother, my experience with anyone older than my parents was limited. The summer of 1995 I was what one might consider “underemployed”. I’d quit a job without another one to go to, so I cobbled together odd jobs in order to make my car pay my car payment and rent.
Amid the substitute teaching, temping in a law office, data entry clerking, I spent time in doing housekeeping and cooking in a nursing home in rural Vermont. The Shard Villa is on the national register of historic buildings and is in Salisbury, Vermont.
My friend Deb runs the place as if it is her own home. The residents, who are there for a variety of reasons whether long-term care or respite, enjoy home cooked meals, gentle nursing care, rooms filled with comfortable furniture; and some even have their long-time pet companions with them. When Deb asked if I wanted some hours at the “Villa”, as they call it, I said sure.
I admit to being nervous, as I mentioned, I never really had too much interaction with “old” people so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was more than pleasantly surprised. One of the women I met was a retired doctor in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She’d had a terrific career, some of which should could recount in great detail.
The reason I tell you about the Villa is because it prepared me for living next door to Lucille. I’ve written about her before. She’s 86 years old and lives by herself, and she will “until she can’t anymore”. Last night she called and asked if I would come over after work today to wash her hair. Right now she’s recovering from a slip and fall she took last weekend. He lower back is a mess and while, thankfully, she didn’t break anything, she is horribly bruised and sore. We’ve looked out for her for the past four years, so when she calls–it’s a no-brainer.
Today I want to thank my friend Deb. She taught me how important it is to care for our elders in a way that values their experience, respects their wishes, and does not compromise their dignity.