In today’s troubled world it is easy to be distracted by the ongoing issues: tempted to join the discussions of political failings, health crises and economic woes. I have always felt my role is to keep to the positive and look up in hope.
My workdays are largely consumed with assisting in the daily lives of older seniors. I have been trained to remain observant to their needs. Sometimes I have to refer to a co-worker’s expertise; sometimes I am able to deal with concerns on my own.
How simple some troubles are to resolve, both on site and outside of work. A listening ear, a quick hug, a moment to offer encouragement usually have great effect. But not always. We have learned not to take personally the angry retorts and general grumpiness that can come our way.
I remember from my mother's and grandmother’s generations, the practice of framing and displaying mottos, uplifting quips or even decorative pictures from calendars. I have seen many droll sayings that perk me up at work.
In the room of one of our former residents, I reread with pleasure her wall hanging that was surely designed just for her. It was made of fabric and hung crookedly from the knob of her coat closet. It stated simply, “start slow and taper off.” In our dealings with her we had learned that she could not be rushed. She also had a slight hearing loss. Our encouragement had to be in a clear, concise voice. Unhurried.
My mom has long endured memory issues. When we were still able to enjoy her company, we practised slowing down and did not pile on too much information. She used to say “I can’t hear that fast.” She couldn’t process quickly what we were telling her. Adding additional data too soon only made us all frustrated.
We didn’t watch the news or horrific weather disasters with mom. Rather our time together was spent playing Scrabble and listening to gospel music. It helped her retain her good spirits and friendly demeanour much longer.
For a long time, she could recall the significant dates of my brother who drowned at age seventeen. His birthday has just passed and my sister and I were discussing our memories of Marvin. The anniversary of his death reignited fond memories for mom. I don’t believe that she returned to her grief so much as recalling him with a mother’s love.
He was a whistler, going about the farm chores with an upbeat spirit. He was the one who always expressed his gratitude. Mom’s recollections included compliments for her good cooking. We all felt the same, but it was Marvin who was quick to put it into words. His thankful heart continued to be a blessing to her.
Joyce Hoey is a longtime Mountain View Albertan columnist.