I knocked on the door – no answer. I called – no answer. His newspaper was still by the door. I asked if the neighbors had seen him. No.
I was checking in on a new 90-year-old client while his family was away for the weekend. On Saturday everything went as planned – he greeted me warmly at the door. I saw him take his medications and stayed a while to be sure he got breakfast and was feeling OK. We joked about the articles in the newspaper. I like him a lot.
But on Sunday he wasn’t answering. As a person my heart skips a beat, but as a geriatric care manager I’m doing a very important part of my job. Next stop: building security, where we had the procedures in place to let me in if necessary. The guard unlocks the door and I tiptoe in: hoping for the best and prepared for the worst.
I hear the shower running. I peek through the hallway to see a glimpse of the lovely one – enough to know he was fine. He was just showering a little later on this Sunday morning!
I am often struck by the intimacy of caregiving. Many of my clients feel like they don’t need help, even when they would live very precariously without it. They cherish their privacy and independence. They accept intrusion and inconvenience in order to bring comfort to their adult children, who often live far away and worry if mom or dad are OK. “Has she fallen again?” “Is he taking his meds?” “Should I be doing something more?”
When this gracious gentleman saw me standing in his living room he realized what had happened. He came out in his towel, smiled broadly, and apologized for getting up late and not hearing the doorbell or the phone while he was in the shower. And I apologized for making my way to the other side of a previously locked door while he was simply trying to have a normal Sunday morning!
So we giggled, he dressed, he took his meds, I made breakfast and we joked about what was in the paper.
The generosity of caregiving comes from all sides: The caregivers do what they can, the care receivers endure what they must – and the other way around. And in moments of clarity we giggle and joke and enjoy the simple intimacy that care makes available when the generous give and the generous receive.