I lost a dear friend today from Parkinson’s. He has suffered for a long time from this awful disease and his body was completely worn out. His spirit lives on however through his loving kindness and his outstanding integrity. I have mixed feelings, because on one hand I am glad that his suffering is over, but I am saddened that the love of his life (his wife) will now be without him. She has cared for him by herself until Hospice came in for the end.
I now have a job that requires me to work with a few Parkinson’s patients and the irony is not missed by me. One patient is a holy terror. The first time I went to visit this client I was told all sorts of horror stories by caregivers, and I was quite nervous. This patient is very smart and frustrated beyond belief that they can no longer be understood. This client likes things in a certain routine and order and every time a new caregiver is introduced this patient must try and communicate to train them in the thousand and one things it takes to bring some order into their room.
I decided that since I couldn’t be there to care for my friend in California, I would care for this client in the same way. Patience, kindness and a sense of humor. That is how my dear friend Mike would have done it, he is my reminder and inspiration when things get dicey. It’s how I can honor him.
I left that first meeting with the difficult client, feeling a connection to this brilliant mind, trapped in a body that will no longer cooperate. I helped the patient make a phone call to grandchildren and was dumbfounded at the “I love you’s” that poured from their voice, and was further mesmerized when they made a grunting grrrrrr sound to mimic a bear hug over the telephone. Some of the caregivers would never believe me, but it was my gift.
My friend that died today, never complained according to his wife. Everyone that knew him marveled at that. If anyone is entitled to be cranky it would be him; but then again look at Michael J. Fox? He is the poster child for how you want to respond to a life threatening illness. His perceptions are powerful, positive and courageous. I’m afraid I would be kicking and screaming and most likely complaining.
I have been given a treasure. I am invited in to the lives of seniors struggling to keep their dignity in the face of too many physical challenges. One of my favorite clients is a firecracker from Argentina. She taught in the school districts in southern California for thirty years and was an advocate for special needs children that were struggling with disabilities and the added challenge of a language barrier. She is a spiritual powerhouse and we’ve been having wonderful conversations about life. She told me that money is a matter of perception. I thought that was so simple, yet profound.
Covering the considerable costs of health care for the aged is no small matter. All of my clients are able to afford high end care, but they have all worked very hard and know the value of a dollar. Perception is the key to so many things in life. How we choose to look at challenges, financial burdens, loss, will ultimately decide the very quality of our lives, no matter the situation. It’s not easy and I don’t mean to imply that it is. Think what could happen though if we change our perception? It’s a choice.