She has a nickname for each of us. I’m the new girl, till she comes up with something else.
Wheeling her around in the walker, I’ve bumped into table legs and doorframes a couple times. Then she calls me, crazy woman driver. I feel more like a new teenage driver. I’m learning, though—it’s easier to maneuver while mobile.
Private adult daycare is my new job description. It’s far from the glamorous opportunity presented earlier this year. But after praying all summer, God showed me a few things. Then He opened this door.
Two times a week I wake before the sun, drive almost an hour on winding mountain roads, and spend twelve hours with an elderly woman. One who still has a lot of spunk, but spends most of her days and nights in bed, while making her last approach toward eternity. She’s ready for a new body that doesn’t hurt or keep her from being the active woman she once was.
Eighty-seven years old, talented, and mentally sharp (except for some short-term memory loss).
And she’s thankful. She wants to die at home, and her daughters have made that possible.
With tote bags on both shoulders and my thermal mug in hand, I greet the day. A little chilly now in November—thankfully our Subaru has heated seats.
The first day was awkward. Two strangers immersed in a working relationship with no privacy, and my daylight hours at her disposal.
Fixing meals, seeing she eats regularly and takes her meds with in-between-mealtime-snacks.
Cleaning up afterwards.
Making sure she has enough support behind her back and under her neck with pillows packed in tight, and socks off or on, depending on how warm or cool she’s feeling…
Are my pillows packed in? And my neck is free? And could I have another sip of water, please? Hold it for me, now… And where’s the remote?
Yes, yes, another yes, and everything is right here.
She feels blessed to be cared for at home. Surrounded by her paintings and needlework, her wood sculptures and antiques, and her sweet terrier. Reminders of fifty-five years with a husband she still adores.
The daughter who lives in the same house is a single business woman. Hiring round-the-clock care allows her to pursue her career and maintain a cheerful relationship with her mom. She checks in every morning, and comes to chat in the evening when dinner’s ready.
Living with pain, this lady remembers to be sweet. There are times when she apologizes for snapping at me, or for asking a thousand questions about her daily routine.
But I don’t mind. She has need of care-givers, and I have bills to pay. This works out for both of us.
Toward the end of my first day I stepped outside to dump the trash, surprised at how quickly the day went by. The home sits on a ridge in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Through the trees and across the canyon I caught a view of the sunset—blazing peachy-pink against fading blue. Amazing how the sky reflected my spirit at that very moment.
It’s beyond any human ability to comprehend how this unexpected—and to be honest, undesirable—job opportunity was customized just for me and my crazy schedule.
I mean, I’ve done daycare before. And I hated it. Every messy, insane moment of every tedious day. But again, there were needs to be met, and I could stay home with my kiddos while helping raise other kiddos.
I figured elderly caregiving would be pretty much the same.
I was really hoping, Lord, at this empty nest stage of my life, I’d get to choose something a little more exciting to earn a paycheck. You do realize this is day care, right? And something I planned never to do again?
Yes, accompanying a woman to and from the bathroom ten times a day is like daycare—just not as messy. I don’t wipe noses or bottoms, but I do see to regular feedings. No, I don’t have to keep her occupied or out of trouble. She enjoys her tv and radio.
There’s no sense of propriety or modesty. In her condition, bodily functions with accompanying noises are as bold and ill-mannered as a baby’s. She doesn’t like it, but we both understand it’s the new normal at this stage of life.
I’ve learned to handle her limbs delicately, while rubbing ginger-spice lotion on her feet and squeezing her hand. Not too tightly, or my fingernails dig into her skin.
When she teases I tease back—threatening her with more prunes if she’s not nice to me.
No, please! Not more prunes!
Her daughter walks in on our verbal sparring, happy to hear us laughing.
Her eyes glisten after I read from Charles Spurgeon, or after we pray for each meal. Her fragile hands grip mine even tighter, thanking me for coming all that way to care for her.
Driving home those first two nights I replayed the day’s events:
Minimal pressure, no hurry, no stress, pleasant co-workers… It’s actually relaxing. And I’m surprised—this is exactly what I need! The exciting, “glamorous” job would have meant more responsibility, pressure, interruptions—more work that I don’t have time for.
My body settles in, allowing me to enjoy the drive home.
I go, I do what’s required, I take care of personal stuff in the downtime, and I leave.
Yeah, a little boring for some, but it’s perfect for me.
Funny how God knew that all along.
It’s been a couple weeks now, and I come home with renewed energy. After homemaking, cooking, light cleaning, straightening, caring for another woman’s home, I want to straighten and re-organize and buy paint and sort through the junk in the attic to toss out a few things in my own home.
The perk? In between my responsibilities there, I get to write. My column, my blog, ministry notes for church, for ladies events and couples’ activities, lesson plans for my writing class, catching up on emails, etc.
And I see my best friend now four times a week, which is way more than before. (She told me about the job, and gave me a good reference!) We catch up on our kids—both our youngest girls are at college now—and we pray for each other’s wayward ones. Hugging tightly we exchange a Good night or Have a great day.
Feels like the changing of the guard. Yet, for both of us it’s just another form of ministry.
Slower pace, minimal pressure, I don’t come home exhausted. Didn’t look like much on the outside, but this job package held way more than I expected. I’m so glad I didn’t overlook it—didn’t reject the opportunity to make new friends, and to deepen another friendship. To bring a smile to a face in a secluded corner of the world.
I’m also seeing another facet of life, a season many of us will enter before long. And learning lessons I’m sure I’ll refer back to someday.
Why did you want this job? she’s asked me more than once.
Well… it’s like this…