He wasn’t always so shaky on his feet. There was a time when he could split a log with one swing of the axe. He used to dance, run and work hard. His children thought he was the strongest man alive. But now the old man might topple over in a stiff breeze.
Living alone–his independence–is really all he has left. His grown kids took the car keys away. They tell him what to eat and what medicine to take and when to do it. Lordy, they even have control of his bank account. Sure, it’s all based on love, and he knows that. But old age ain’t easy, and the worst part is having people do things for you. Things you used to be able to do for yourself.
So when the old man has accidents (especially the late-night variety when he doesn’t quite make it to the bathroom in time), the humiliation and shame is almost overwhelming. He remembers a time when he’d clean up after his kids… Now they are cleaning up after him. And it’s a lousy feeling.
Over the years I’ve helped clean up many accidents elderly folks have had, whether it’s a dropped plate of food, a failed trip to the bathroom or the frightening mess left over after a serious fall. It breaks my heart everytime because I know inside that frail body is a proud person with a sharp mind who wonders how Father Time caught up so fast. I’m not sure anything tugs at my heart strings quite like seeing the ravages of old age.
I’m bringing this up as a type of public service announcement, I suppose. I have a soft spot in my heart for old folks, and I know from experience how difficult and embarrassing it can be for them when they’ve had an accident. As a professional carpet cleaner I’m often called upon to clean up the messes our elders sometimes make, so I see firsthand how scared and ashamed they can be.
They worry they’ll lose their independence, they’re afraid they’ll be scolded like a child, they’re embarrassed to have other people cleaning up after them, etc. So I take great pride in giving them their dignity at these times. Sometimes the job itself can be less than desirable–I’m not going to lie about that. But it feels darn good to give them their dignity by making it seem like it’s just another ho-hum day, like it’s the most normal thing in the world for me. I don’t ask prying questions about what happened and I don’t express disgust or even displeasure about having to clean up whatever it is that needs cleaned up.
Almost every time I’ve had a job like this, I’ve left with a smile on my face, a bounce in my step and a new friend. It just feels so good to help and to give my elders the respect and dignity they deserve. If your elderly parent or family member ever has an accident that soils their carpet or furniture, please call me. I promise I’ll take great care of them and they’ll feel happy and relieved by the time I’m done.
Imagine how damaging it would be to get the wrong carpet cleaner on site. You don’t want some young kid talking about how gross it is and making your elderly loved one feel even worse. Don’t take that chance. Save my number in your phone, and if the time ever comes, let me make everything right. I can’t give him his physical strength back, but I can make the old man feel like his accident never happened.