I love the title of this interview because, indeed, aging seems to be away on the far shore. I am a social worker working in a rehab unit of a large nursing home. I do this work because I helped care for my mother when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She has been gone for just over two years now but hardly a day goes by when I don't think of how life was for her in a nursing home. I am one of eleven children and since I never married or had children of my own, I was closer to my mother than my siblings in many ways. In her Alzheimer's mind, my mother thought that I was her sister. During her years of suffering from Alzheimer's, my mother and I had an entirely different relationship than we had when I was younger. Our relationship changed for the better and it had been a very good relationship previously. My mother began telling me that she loved me and saying 'please' and 'thank you' to all who did anything for her. During her several years at the nursing home, the staff came to love her as if she were their own mother, despite some of her behaviors. I will be forever grateful to many of them for taking such wonderful care of her. In my work I see many adult children struggle with caring for one or both of their parents. Many people these days are working longer and live a distance away, not always by choice. The elderly struggle with maintaining their independence for a long as possible and, unfortunately, make the wrong decision about their lives towards the end. We do live too longer, thanks to modern medicine. The elderly outlive their money and means to live and sometimes sit and wonder "when is my time to go". It is heartbreaking. We are sad when they are gone but there has to be a quality to life or else many people believe that it is just not worth living. Yet I am always surprised at the number of people who hesitate to make end-of-life decisions. We all will die, some sooner than others, before we get old even. It just serves to remind me that I should just live in the present as much as I can. And as a geriatric social worker, be there with a listening ear when an elderly person or adult son or daughter needs support or encouragement.
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