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An octogenarian and I share frustration

January 6, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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I read a recent article written by a legally blind octogenarian in the New Old Age blog in the New York Times. The author admits she needs some assistance and knows she is ungrateful when she receives it. She regrets the fact that she needs help. People who commented to the blog said she should change her attitude or she will end up lonely. However, I found her insight refreshingly honest. I understand her.

The woman says she has wonderful, helpful children. They do not complain about doing things for her. Still she laments at great length her aggravation about needing their help in the first place. She knows she is grumpy and does not apologize for it.

The author does not try to excuse it or qualify her attitude. She explains that needing her children's help makes her feel she is again growing up in the Depression. Back then she was the second daughter who should have been a boy and she felt like a burden.

I can relate to this octogenarian. When I feel like a burden, it is hard on my self-esteem. On those days I hear myself talk pleasantly to the aides through half gritted teeth.

It is difficult to always need assistance from others. There are days that I would like to be alone. But that is not possible because I need help with almost everything I do including being set up to write, staying busy or even being entertained.

I feel most burdensome when I do not feel well. Subconsciously, I hope the aides can read my mind and magically know what to do for me. It amazes me how some aides know what I need without asking. Other aides, however, may feel I am trying to be bothersome.

Like my mother, I do not want to be a crabby old lady. But I know I do not get to choose how I age. No matter how I care for myself and watch my diet, the aging process can leave me with aches and pains that make me cranky at times.

I am particular and opinionated and some aides can take me the wrong way. A couple of months ago my aide told a new aide she was orientating that I am the only resident who really likes to be clean. I did not think I could be the only resident who appreciates cleanliness. But the aide assured me I am the only one who gives them no trouble about cleaning up.

I realize I will be asking for help more and more as I age. On days when it is hard to accept that my self-esteem may be on the floor and I, too, can sound like a grump.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...