Random Acts of Patience
Working with elders and their Caregiving family members, I have often had
the privilege and responsibility of seeing, first hand, the trial and
blessings of being a family member. In this great country, the so-called
melting pot of the world, there are a variety of cultures interacting,
changing, adapting, and co-existing. But with all of the differences
amongst us, there are remarkable similarities in the inner workings of
As a Geriatric Care Manager, I have the unique opportunity to view
---families on a very intimate level. Often with several family members at
varying generations taking me into their confidences, sharing history,
hopes, and aspirations. Interestingly enough, many of the themes are quite
similar. Similar, between generations within the same family...similar,
between the same generation in very different families.
The press and magazines are often peppered with stories of so-called
‘Granny Dumping’, the act of adult children dropping their elders off,
wherever possible, leaving them to be cared for by strangers - usually the
government. Seldom does a month go by where you do not hear a story of
someone exploiting their elder for financial gain. The preponderance of
such stories would have you believe that this may be the norm for our
But this has not been my experience. I began working in eldercare and
assisting employed caregivers years ago with American Express. Since that
time I have worked with numerous companies, in assisting their employees
in balancing caregiving and work concerns, as well as many individuals. I
have found the majority of adult children love and care for their parents
very deeply. The theme seems to be trying to find the balance and the
As a caregiver working with many frail elders, I think one of the
unexpressed desires from others is patience. Patience is a word that we
use in so many abstract ways, that we forget that it has a true practical
meaning. Patience is what allows us to let friends finish their sentences
when we already know what they are going to say. Patience is what assists
us in holding our thoughts and judgments about a particular topic, while
someone we care about is exploring it. Patience is what supports us when
we listen to an often told tale, over and over and over again.
In the variety of chores that a ‘Sandwich Generation’ caregiver must
perform, both with children and elders, time is often of the essence.
Because of this, many of us rush through some of the most potentially
enjoyable times. I recently was commenting to a good friend of mine, how
it seems that staying busy, seems to have become a desired goal. Somehow,
the more busy we are, the more worthwhile we are. Among other working
mothers I know, there is much time spent, rushing children to clubs,
sports events, and meetings. When did this hurried lifestyle become the
‘in thing’ I asked her? How can you possibly be spontaneously patient with
children or elders, if your “to do” list is growing by the minute?
I remember hearing a story once about a Caregiver that had been assisting
an older gentlemen with his grocery shopping. Although it would have been
easier, and much more time efficient to pick up the groceries for him, the
elder wanted to continue to buy his own groceries. When the elder returned
home from shopping, the caregiver escorted him to the door.
After a short wait the elder was able to search and fumble the keys to the
door. After she waited again for him to unsuccessfully place the key in
the lock on the second try, the caregiver impatiently pushed the key in,
turned the key, and popped the door open. Upon doing this she looked into
the face of a very deflated and demoralized man. What seemed like a simple
twist of the wrist to her, had been one of his few acts of independence.
This was after all, his apartment, of which he is the sole resident and
Sometimes the most simple act of allowing someone to cut their own food,
no matter what the struggle, can be a great act of patience. The respect
of letting someone take a longer time to eat their meal if they wish. If
you are planning to spend time with a person who will require (or will
enjoy) some extra time, build it in to your schedule.
Trials and tribulations are said to teach patience if we respond to the
hardship positively. But I don’t think all patience has to be learned. Nor
do I feel all patience has to be a monumental feat. Patience can be a
conscious decision and can be as small (and monumental) as the examples
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Articles written by Gardner Riel, owner and founder of ElderLink.
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