Enlighten Your Season: Advice for Caregivers of the Elderly
December 16, 2016 | by Lynda Neuenschwander, NCPC
Taking care of elderly loved ones can be very exhausting, especially during the holidays. Care.com talks about things to help lighten the load during the busy season, like decreasing amounts of gifts, taking breaks, and exercising, while talk-early-talk-often.com encourages one to "unplan" the holiday to make room for some true relaxation and memory making. Agingcare.com talks of reducing loneliness for the elderly in your life and gives tips to enhance their experience, while easylivingfl.com promotes being realistic about traditions, making modifications, and seeking help from family members. All good and sound advice, to be sure.
Lighten up your to-do list, lighten up on outside commitments, and lighten up on yourself. So, how do you lighten up? Makeuseof.com says, "Research has shown that the mere physical act of smiling, without actually feeling like it, triggers internal biological reactions that stimulate emotions and contribute to a better mood – in you and others. In other words, when you feel down, fake a big fat smile and you will lighten up automatically. But be careful, it also works the other way around, so remember to keep smiling." Here is a funny story to get you started.
Frasier Crane [Kelsey Grammer], a character in the famous sit-com, "Frasier," had a new life, a new chapter, a new job, and a new apartment in his hometown of Seattle, Washington when it became necessary for his elderly father Marty to move in with him. What began as a very bumpy relationship eventually became a very enlightening and even quite rewarding one. With life's lessons intermixed, Frasier and Marty forge their bond throughout the years learning to deal with major change and trying to still implement some traditions.
One particular episode called "Bla-Z-Boy" is where Frasier and his dad have been butting heads about Marty's run-down recliner. The chair squeaks incessantly, and it's enough to make Frasier insane. Frasier and Marty have harsh words before Frasier storms out of the apartment. Later, while Marty is oiling the squeak in the chair with an oilcan, Frasier's brother Niles finds him crouched on the floor and fears the worst. Marty reassures him he's just oiling the chair, and Niles notices a few drops of oil that had dropped onto the light-colored carpet. As Marty goes to get a towel from the kitchen, he accidentally steps on the oil can and it squirts a large amount of oil out onto the carpet just in time for Frasier to come back and see what had transpired.
Outraged, Frasier accuses Marty of subconscious hostility towards him and claims that Marty made the oil stain on purpose. Marty tries multiple times to tell Frasier that it truly was an accident, but Frasier, ironically, would not listen. It's ironic because on his radio show, Frasier tells his patients, "I'm listening." So, as Frasier insists that what Marty did was malicious and not accidental, Marty finally had it and said, "For the last time, this was not malicious, it was an accident!" Frasier retorts with, "I don't think you know the difference!" Marty's response, "Yes, I do! That was an accident! [Squirting oil all over the front of Frasier] THIS is malicious!"
In replacing the carpet, all furniture had to be moved out onto the balcony until new carpet was laid down. While Frasier and Niles are discussing difficulties relating to their father, the sun hits a telescope lens just right and starts the recliner on fire. After Frasier and Niles notice something burning, they try to put out the fire with a drop cloth, but in the process end up shoving the burning recliner off of the balcony, only to land on the sidewalk right next to Marty and Daphne, the home health-care worker. Can you imagine? You're out for a leisurely stroll with your dog and a recliner aflame comes crashing down at your side! This, in turn, gets Marty to accuse Frasier of sabotaging his chair on purpose, and the cycle begins all over again with misunderstood motives. This unfortunate series of events is all-too-common in our own lives in different ways, is it not? This whole sit-com includes many elements that apply to all families as they grow into the phase of having an aging parent that needs to be taken care of, and gives us all a good laugh.
On a more inspirational note, there is a story about a small truce on Christmas Eve during WWII in 1944 that will set one to ponder. Elisabeth Vincken and her son, Fritz, were waiting at a hunting cabin in the woods for Fritz's father to return before they ate their Christmas meal. Three American soldiers stumbled upon their cabin in desperate need of warmth and food, one of their comrades -- wounded. Immediately, Elisabeth started making dinner, the one they were saving for her husband. Eventually, another party fell upon the cabin, but this time it was four German soldiers. Elisabeth told them there were Americans inside and that they were welcome also, but with this warning, while they were all there, there would be no shooting because it was a holy night. The boys all complied and left their weapons outside in the snow.
Tension softened as the smell of home-cooking took over and the soldiers actually talked with each other. The wounded American was looked after by a German former medical student, and when they all left, the Germans told the Americans the best way to get back, gave them a compass, and they all shook hands. Years passed while young Fritz grew up and searched for any of those soldiers that had been at his cabin as a boy. Finally, in 1995, the TV episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" aired the story and told of a man in Northampton Manor Nursing Home in Maryland, who had kept the story alive for years. Fritz found out about it and sought out the man. He met the man, Ralph Blank, in 1996, and Ralph told Fritz that his mom had saved his life. Fritz said, "Now, I can die in peace. My mother's courage won't be forgotten and it shows what good will do." Fritz passed away six years later.
In the midst of your holiday season, don't forget to laugh along the way and find the inspiration in the little things. "No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That's the only way to keep the roads clear." - Greg Kincaid.