November is National Family Caregiver Month. In honor of all the families who devote themselves to the care of loved ones, many of whom are elderly, I’ve decided to devote my columns in the next few weeks to some stories about the lighter side of both aging and caregiving.
I often quote Bette Davis who said that getting old is not for sissies. Neither is caregiving. Getting older and caring for the elderly are not laughing matters, but sometimes there are moments. In fact, seeing the humor is a great defense against the dark side. When I co-facilitated a caregiver support group several years ago, I collected a little senior humor from the Internet and sometimes opened meetings with a joke or two to lighten the mood and take our minds off the latest caregiving crisis. Here are a few of my favorites.
The nice thing about being senile is you can hide your own Easter eggs.
Mom never hid her own eggs, but she once hid her purse with all her insurance and identification cards in it, and it took me two weeks to find it.
Reporters interviewing a 104-year-old woman:
“And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?” the reporter said.
“No peer pressure.”
Mom lived a lot of her life worrying about what people thought of her. Alzheimer’s is a senseless and insidious disease, but if it has a silver lining, it is that it took away Mom’s fears and social anxieties. As her disease progress, she became a party girl, the life of the party, the sweet little lady with the constant smile and the ready hug who doesn’t worry at all about peer pressure.
I’ve sure gotten old! I’ve had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, fought prostate cancer and diabetes. I’m half blind, can’t hear anything quieter than a jet engine, take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. I have bouts with dementia, have poor circulation, and can hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. I can’t remember if I’m 85 or 92. I’ve lost all my friends, but, thank God, I still have my driver’s license.
This one was too close to the truth to be funny. When we moved to Florida, we all made a trip to the driver’s license office. I had already taken the car keys away from Mom and Dad, but they both still had their Texas licenses. My hope was that the State of Florida would be my ally in making their non-driving status official. It was no problem with Mom. She was taking some dementia medications that disqualified her, so the State issued her a picture I.D. Not so with Dad. He hobbled up to the counter with the aid of his 4-footed cane and struggled to find his old license in his wallet. He finally gave up and asked me to find it for him. In spite of all of that, he walked out with a Florida license. The one saving grace was that he couldn’t get far without the keys.
Just before the funeral services, the undertaker approached the elderly widow.
“How old was your husband?” he said.
“’98,” she said. “Two years older than me.”
“So you’re 96,” the undertaker said.
She smiled and said, “Hardly worth going home, is it?”
One thing we talked about a lot in our support group was finishing well. If we can live in such a way that we can approach the finish line with the humor and aplomb of this elderly lady, and if we can help our loved ones do the same, we will have finished well.