I wanted to share with you an experience I had this afternoon.
I have mentioned before, the emotional turmoil I have been experiencing , as I have been helping settle my Dad into an Aged Care Facility.
Dad is blind. He lost an eye through a work accident when he was very young and lost the eye when I was a baby. He has spent all of my life with a prosthetic eye, teaching us to always be careful and to protect our eyes.
Unfortunately, Dad developed Wet Macular Degeneration in his other eye. After treatment, his doctor was happy to report that the MD was now dry and so they could do the cataract surgery. Instead of clearing Dad’s vision, he ended up with Golden Staph in his eye, endless needles in the eye and detached retina (twice). After that, Dad had very little vision left and Glaucoma hit and took the rest.
Dad is also deaf. Dad spent his life working in a Saw Mill and has industrial deafness that now means he can only hear you speak if you are right beside his ear.
Dad is also in early stages of Dementia – short term memory loss, difficulty finding a word etc
Dad became very ill recently with double pneumonia and with the necessary changes to medications etc to save his life, he is now frail, and needing high care which has proved to be too much for Mum to manage. Hence the move to Aged Care.
I visit Dad almost every day and yesterday, one of the assistants told me she would be performing for the residents today and invited me along. They hadn’t been able to convince Dad to attend any of these activities before, but he decided that since he ‘knew’ her, he would go with Mum and I. It was a ‘big’ outing to the next room!!
What an afternoon!! We clapped and sang along with Allison as she played her guitar and took us all down ‘memory lane’. Luckily for me, I was brought up with Dad playing his ‘mouth organ’ and Mum singing, so I could sing along too! (Young thing that I am!!)
The lady sitting beside me didn’t miss a note and the lady on the other side of her, performed her yodel at the appropriate place in a song (that she has obviously enjoyed before).
During the performance, the staff circled through the crowd, offering refreshments in the form of lemonade, crackers and dip, chips and slices of fruit.
We sang some favourites from The Seekers, John Denver and even The Beatles – they were the ‘modern’ ones!!! We sang ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’, ‘Waltzing Matilda’, ‘She’ll be coming Round The Mountain’, ‘Edelweiss’, ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ (and many more that I can’t recall) and the joy was obvious on all the wonderful faces around me. Fingers tapped on wheelchair arms and toes tapped the rhythm…. eyes were closed as personal memories flickered by..
Allison gave a moving rendition of Eric Bogles ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and I swear you could have heard a pin drop.
I was especially touched by ‘When I Grow Too Old To Dream’ – I could tell that for these residents, that will never happen!
They were anxiously awaiting the last song – Allison said it was a favourite and she hoped it wasn’t because they had been bored for a couple of hours!! It wasn’t!! The song was ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’ and it was sung with gusto and lot’s of smiles.
What a wonderful afternoon! I am full of admiration for all the years of life experience that surrounded me in that room – sure, some of it is now shadowed by age related issues like loss of mobility, hearing loss,sight loss and Dementia, but no-one will ever convince me that any of those issues can delete the sheer joy of music and memories – it is such a powerful combination.
I feel privileged to have witnessed the interaction of a loving, caring staff, dedicated to ensuring that our elderly continue to live a life full of dignity, respect and fun, and the residents – a wonderful mix of sexes, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, religions, health status etc all accepting the love and care with a graciousness so rarely witnessed these days.
I will rest well tonight, knowing that Dad is surrounded by love and that his ‘new’ family will care for him when we can’t.
I give thanks for our blessings and for the fact that we live in such a wonderful country. Like all things, Aged Care could be improved, but it is not the people that work in Aged Care that need to be ‘bettered’ – we already have the best!
To them all I say “Thank You!!”