Today is a special day where we pay our respects to one of the great leaders and defining contributors to American history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He stood for equality, compassion, nonviolent activism, and holding stead-fast to your principles. As we celebrate him today, here are 5 ways that you can honor him and his legacy.
1. Get involved.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” The elderly often feel forgotten and left behind. As they age, their world gets smaller, and they hold tight to their closest loved ones. Life is busy, schedules are chaotic. But ask any grandma living alone, and she all too well remembers all the days that passed without any visitors and how slowly the clock ticked on by. She yearns for someone to think of her, her ears ache for the phone to ring with a familiar voice at the other end. Reach out to seniors who are less fortunate; spend time with those who live solitary lives. Be present in their lives. Show them love.
2. Speak out.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Get involved in the issues that impact senior citizens. Speak to your elected officials about the value of homecare, and educate our leadership about developing policies that empower the elderly and disabled to maintain their independence at home. Not sure where to begin? Talk to a senior about what would increase their quality of life, what it means to them to choose their own health provider, and how we can help them live more comfortably and safely at home. Be their voice.
3. Do small things with great love.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Every role is an opportunity to show love and make a difference in the world. Whether you’re the delivery technician, the therapist, the neighbor, or the plumber, you have the chance to make a meaningful impact on the person you’re helping. It’s quite possible that if you’re assisting a senior, you may be the only person she/he has spoken to that day–or even longer. Acknowledge the person you are serving, take pride in the quality of your work. Give them assurance that you are here to help them and that you care about their well-being.
4. Put living in life.
“There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.” Lambert’s co-owner, Elizabeth, once eloquently said “life is living!” Her words remind me of Dr. King’s warning of no meaning, no purpose, no life in our lives. It is not enough to survive for the sake of getting older–we want to fill that life with something worthwhile. Seniors are more active and capable than ever before with the advancements in medicine and technology now available. Invite a senior on a day-trip to the mountains; take them to feel the sand in their toes. Instead of defaulting to “I can’t…” or “he won’t…”, talk to your loved one’s physician and medical equipment supplier about what options there are. For example, our oxygen patients can fly with FAA-approved oxygen concentrators, an option that wasn’t there years ago. Ask your loved one about his/her bucket list, and you’ll be surprised at the precious new memories you can still make together. Help them feel alive.
5. Breathe in, and begin.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” We often hear from boomer-aged children who are trying to figure out how to care for an aging parent. Their parents’ needs are changing, and they are unsure what it will take to keep them safe and happy. Can they stay at home? Can we make this work? The realization that you are going to become a family caregiver may be daunting. Overwhelming. You see your loved one’s needs, and you wonder if you have what it takes for the long-haul. Fear not. Begin where you are, doing what you can. Talk to others about how they can contribute, and seek advice from the family physician on resources available to you. You can do this; you are not alone.
Wishing you all dreams of brighter tomorrows and the courage to create a better future.