My post yesterday was about gratitude, and also joy.
Today my post is about the days when I can’t seem to dig deep enough to find the gratitude I know is within me. When I’m in so much pain, my mind is so muddled and my heart is so sore that I don’t know if I can — or if I want to — make it through another day.
In 2017 the USA had the highest suicide rate in 28 years. It’s a fraught time for many of us, socially and politically. Even folks who are agnostic politically can’t help but feel the blowback of their more passionate friends.
About 8 years ago I had a brush with suicide while on a drug, Lyrica, which caused suicidal thoughts and actions. I haven’t seen that drug advertised much lately, I wonder if the I-have-no-pain-but-I-want-to-die issue is the reason.
After such a rough year, and especially after the loss of a life partner, it’s not unusual for folks to begin growing weary of life, fearing a lonely future, seeking an escape. I’m not in that group; my two young-adult kids are reason enough for me to want to hang around and
annoy help them through the next phase of their lives. As I wrote yesterday, my life is pretty great, for what it is.
I do feel alone quite often, but that’s a function of my recovery. It’s hard to get out and socialize; moving is painful, I get so tired, and being in a crowd (even in a restaurant) seems to unsettle me in a new way. I don’t know if it’s because for 18 months I’ve essentially lived most of my life in a hospital room, a bedroom or my living room, but my Living with Loss group at Gilda’s Club (6-10 people) is about as large a group of people that I feel comfortable interacting with.
I see a therapist regularly, I interact with folks online through social media and my blog, and I have friends drop by on a fairly regular basis. I am very lucky.
There are folks, though, who don’t have the resources I have. They’re alone, they’re ill, but they can’t find their way to a path toward human connection. You might know someone like this; a relative, a neighbor, a friend’s mom, who is living a life with little human interaction.
Once I was on a bus in NYC on my way to an appointment, and we passed a church bulletin board which read, “WE ARE ALL ONE”
Coming home a few hours later I saw that one of the letters had fallen off, and now the sign read, effectively, “WE ARE AL ONE”
If you have the resources and opportunity to help someone in your life, do it. Help them figure out how to receive and send email, set them up with a protected facebook account so you can check in with them, ask them if you can take them out for coffee every now and then.
If there’s no one in your life like that, check out organizations like the ones below which can provide a structure to allow you to help someone whose life may —quite literally— depend on a kind word or a visit. As the recipient of SO much love this past year, I can tell you what a difference it makes when you feel that folks really care how your day is, or if you’re feeling overwhelmed with life.
The list below is from the Prefer Home Website. There may be other organizations in your area that aren’t listed here, but it’s a starting point. Ironically, just before I was diagnosed I had applied to deliver food through Meals On Wheels here in St. Paul. Of course, with the cancer and my continuing difficulties walking, this isn’t possible anymore.
The journey from active life participant to person needing help and company can be very short, I’m proof of that. Pay a bit of love forward and reach out to help someone who may be feeling a tiny bit neglected emotionally in your community.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but it never hurts to help tip the scales of Karma when possible!
10 Charities For Older Persons
1. Honor Flight Network: flights for veterans
As a thank you to those who served, The Honor Flight Network takes veterans on free trips to Washington, D.C. Currently, they focus on escorting World War II veterans to the memorial created for them. The program also takes veterans who are terminally ill.
2. Meals on Wheels Association of America: nutritious meals
Local programs provide congregate meals (at places like senior centers) or deliver meals to homes. Some programs also distribute food for homebound seniors’ pets.
3. Independent Transportation Network: rides
A network of affiliates provides what the charity calls “door-to-door, arm-through-arm service” to people who are generally 60 and older. Adult children can even volunteer as drivers and store up transportation credits for their parents. Gift certificates are also available. The rides aren’t free, but there is a program to help low-income seniors pay for them.
4. SeniorNet: computer training
Volunteers teach seniors to use computers. Classes include “Internet and E-mail” and ”Buying and Selling on eBay.” There are also discounts on computer-related products.
5. Second Wind Dreams: dream granting
This charity grants dreams for people living in long-term care communities, such as nursing homes, assisted living communities and hospice facilities. The dreams range from simple ones like a dress for church to big ones like reuniting with family members or swimming with dolphins. Donors can choose the dreams they want to sponsor.
6. Oasis: active living
Oasis helps people 50 and older keep their minds, bodies and social lives active through a variety of programs. Some are intergenerational, such as the tutoring program in which volunteers help kids learn to read.
7. Alzheimer’s Association: support and education
If you have a disease, there’s probably a charity for it. The Alzheimer’s Association is one example. This large charity is involved in advocacy and research support. But it also offers a number of programs that directly help patients and families, including a helpline, support groups, education programs, and safety services for people who wander. The association also helps people find clinical trials.
8. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: support and education
Not to be left out when talking about Alzheimer’s charities, this one offers a hotline, educational workshops and free memory screenings. It also provides services for people with dementia, such as intellectual stimulation programs and adult day services, along with respite care to give their caregivers a break.
9. The Pets for the Elderly Foundation: pet adoption
Pets can help combat loneliness, so this charity helps people 60 and older pay pet-adoption fees at participating shelters in 29 states.
10. Socks for Seniors: holiday gifts
This is a fun one for the holidays. Elderly people who are living alone, living in nursing homes or homeless get a visit from a cheerful volunteer and a new pair of socks—often bright, festive ones. The point is to let them know they’re not forgotten during what can be a depressing time of year.
To find more charities, or to evaluate these, here are three helpful websites: Charity Navigator, GuideStar and Independent Charities of America. And to check for benefits you or an elderly loved one may be eligible for, visit BenefitsCheckUp.org.