After my husband’s death ten years ago I was very proud of the sense of confidence I gained from how I could take care of most problems and decisions by myself.
If something broke or needed fixing, I looked it up on the internet and when able to do so, fixed it. When something was wrong with the car I looked up potential problems so I could discuss intelligently what I had observed with the car repairman.
I was able to resolve some issues on the computer that normally my husband would have fixed. I was so proud of my abilities to adapt and do for myself. “I am woman hear me roar!” I was independent, or relatively so.
Once a Nurse, Always a Nurse
Life changed a lot after his death. A year later I was put on long term disability and then retired. Eight years after I retired from nursing, I now live in a secure condominium building. My neighbors are mostly over 60 and several are much older than that. We have forged a loving bond with each other.
I bring in packages for one neighbor when she is out of town. I am always on the lookout for someone who seems sick or having a bad day. I even gave some greatly appreciated advice about seeing a doctor for a bad, lingering cough to one neighbor. I always feel appreciated and truly enjoy helping my neighbors.
I had abdominal surgery in April, 2017 for repairs on an older surgery of a similar nature. Being a family kind of person with a bunch of awesome neighbors I told my neighbors that I was having surgery and they wouldn’t see me out and about as much while recuperating from the operation. Everybody kept asking me when the surgery was and who would be taking care of me when I got home.
Having already experienced a similar surgery years earlier, I was less worried about the surgery and decided to worry about something else. (Which I am prone to do before I “chill out and get a grip”.) As the surgery approached anxiety was neatly diverted from the surgery to “It’s going to be hard to let people do things for me. How will I ever manage to be dependent for a while?”
My post operative restrictions of 4-6 weeks involved walking around often but not over tiring myself. For the surgery to heal properly I could not lift over 5 pounds, couldn’t lean over, stoop, reach and no house work for 3-4 weeks!
The first three days at home one son and his wife stayed with me three days taking care of everything and cooking for me. But they had to go home for needed home repairs.
Dependence Up Close and Personal
My female neighbors, who were able, washed my clothes, loaded the dishwasher, helped change the bed, emptied the cats’ litter boxes. Several times one fellow feline owner friend came to help me give Sister, one of my cats, her medicines since I couldn’t even pick her up.
The second week my oldest son and wife came over with one cooked meal and one they cooked in the crock pot for my supper and helped run a load or two of clothes. Several friends and neighbors brought multiple meals: soup and sandwiches, casseroles, snacks, pizza and even brownies! I never lacked for food, thanks to these loving people.
I even had a few neighbors and friends reminding me that I shouldn’t carry something that they thought might be over 5 pounds. One picked up some items for me at the grocery store and two others took me to the doctor once each.
So How Did That Feel?
So how did I handle all of this dependency? I never felt so loved, cared for and very, very thankful! I did sometimes hate to ask someone to do some things once I was up walking a lot but was still in the second week. These people gave of their time, money, energy, and selves to help me get through what I thought would be a difficult situation.
There were times when I got creative and figured out how to do some risky activities in safe ways. (I had a pick up stick that I used to pick up the cats’ bowls and put down fresh food bowls on the floor. That pick up stick was mighty handy!!)
I was so impressed at the willingness of everyone and the kindness and genuine concern for my well being and health. I thankfully accepted every bit of help offered. I was never made to feel like I was a burden. Everything that was done to help me was done out of love. How could I have ever worried about being a burden or being dependent?
(All of these observations are made from my short period of partial dependence. I do not speak to that which I have not experienced. I also realize that each experience and person is different.)
So as I was pondering these events, it occurred to me that: at least in a short term period of inability to care for your home and activities of daily living, your family, friends, and neighbors who love you will gladly help you in your time of need. The key word here is: love.
Sure things may be inconvenient for them or cause some sacrifices in their lives. But they choose to help because they love you. Gifts of love are not to be taken lightly. So stop worrying about short term dependence on the love, help and gifts of others. It is not something to worry about.
The other revelation I had was (again as relates to short term dependence) that feeling of being a burden or dependent is only a state of mind. It is not always a reality. It does not take into account the love you are being given by those who are taking care of you. So open your heart and feel the love and warmth coming back to you from those you have loved and helped.
I would also add that as we get older we may need we may need more day to day care from our grown children. Yes, it may be hard on them, yes they may miss some activities they enjoy, yes it may be stressful for them. That is why while we are still young enough to make wise decisions, we need to plan ahead for the future as much as possible. Another post will follow with some suggestions that I have found may be helpful in preparation for dependence in our older years.