Transformative Touch

images-2Did you know that as we grow older, our sense of touch diminishes? Sure, I knew that eyesight and hearing often decline, along with our sense of smell and taste, but it was news to me that our sense of touch declines as well. According to a recent *article in AARP, by the time we’re 80, we’ve only a quarter of the touch receptors we had at 20. Because it’s so gradual, many of us may not even notice this loss. While our sense of touch may lessen, our need for touch certainly doesn’t!

Think of what happens to infants that are left untouched–they often do not survive. All human beings need touch. That includes the elderly. Sadly, something else that often diminishes over time is the opportunity for touch. Spouses die, children and grandchildren are far away and the elderly often find themselves living a singular, mostly “untouched” life.

Both my parents had dementia. Mom had Alzheimer’s and Dad, Parkinson’s-related dementia. They lived nearby me in an assisted living facility and I clearly remember what Continue reading

Beside the Point

Redundancy: superfluous, unnecessary, extraneous, beside the point

Unknown

An encounter while visiting my daughter and her family gave me my first-ever opportunity to personally experience age-related redundancy. Never before have I felt so beside the point.

One afternoon,  we walked to a nearby park. Her family had lived in the area for only a few weeks, so there were lots of new people to meet. One of those new neighbors and her children were at the park too, and we began a conversation. First came the introductions. That past, the neighbor looked directly at my daughter and said, “So, how long will your mother be here?” as I stood right beside her, suddenly feeling like chopped liver. It jolted me. Hadn’t I read about this…the marginalization of the elderly? Wow. Was I now an “elderly?” This alone was tough to swallow, without suddenly also feeling I’d become invisible. My daughter answered the woman’s question, while I was left speechless and staring. Quickly searching my own memory, I wondered if I’d ever treated someone this way. It was with a sense of remorse I realized that I was, indeed, guilty. As caregiver to my parents, how many times had I disrespected them, talking over their heads with health care providers or caregivers, treating Mom and Dad as if they were superfluous? How unthinkingly easy it had been! Continue reading

The Power of Softness

SpursThe holidays have always been a time of togetherness for my family and some of my oldest memories are from this season. It’s only natural for me to “remember when,” so it never comes as a surprise when I develop that unmistakable longing for my mom. If only there were a way to satisfy such a longing with conversation or a hug! Of course, it’s impossible, since Mom passed away in 2008. Recently, a conversation I had with my friend, Jean, about our mothers gave me an idea, and while it can’t help fulfill my yearning as a daughter who has lost her mom, it might make a difference someday for you.
IMG_5821After her mother’s death several years ago, Jean found herself hesitating over an old sweater as she cleaned out her mother’s belongings. Rather than going into the donation box, somehow the sweater found its way home with her. In our conversation, Jean told me there have been a few times over the ensuing years that she’s pulled the old sweater off the hanger and actually worn it. She shared that the softness of the sweater next to her skin feels like an embrace from her mom, a sense of being enveloped by her essence and her love. I’m touched by this lovely sentiment. Continue reading