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The Fearless Cregiver


Gary Barg - Editor-in-chiefHonoring The You Within

This month, my family got together at my house for a joint celebration: Mothers’ Day and my younger brother’s 50th birthday (50!). Celebrating with us was my brother-in-law’s mother. Lita, an attractive Latin-American matriarch to her family. Slowed down recently by problems with mobility, she gets around fairly well with the help of a walker. Lita is just as charming, kind and vivacious as when I first met her. Yet, as usual when walking alongside people with walkers, I was struck by the cut tennis balls on the bottom of the legs of her walker. I don’t know why, but no matter how new the walker is, the tennis balls always remind me of duct tape on glasses frames. No matter how nicely dressed, sexy or charming the person with the walker is, my eyes are always drawn directly to those tennis balls. I can’t help but think, “Shouldn’t somebody have come up with a better answer than that?” Nice earrings, classy dress, great smile and tennis ball skids. It doesn’t compute.

Watching Lita engaging with everyone around her just as she has for the past thirty-some years, she reminds me of all the other people that I remember as being vivacious, funny, and self-secure adults when I was growing up. Too many times their reactions to their own aging or illness have made them insecure as to their standing within the family. Often they have forgotten that they are still the same admired person they were so many years ago. I think this has little to do with the mobility factors and much more to do with the institutionalization of our healthcare system. Hospital beds are, well, hospital beds, walkers are drab sticks of metal scooting around on tennis balls, and wheelchairs—don’t get me started again.

So much of this also has to do with languageAction Products as much as anything else. When you hear language bandied about like “suffering with” rather than an illness being just one facet of your life, or you are referred to as the “frail elderly,” what are you to think about the you that you can still see in the mirror smiling or laughing? I’m certainly not trying to be Pollyanna, but these things do matter.

I know that when he looked in the mirror in his mid-eighties, my grandfather could still see the charmer he was in his fifties. And trust me, the women at his adult day care center saw it, too. Always jacketed and elegant, he never failed to kiss a lady’s hand when she entered the room. I only hope that I will see something close to that when I look in the mirror in a few decades. Now, the only thing left that I can’t figure out is how the heck my baby brother is turning 50.


  Gary Barg
Today's Caregiver magazine
Friday, May 18, 2011
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