Help not wanted

I have a friend who hates her job. Really hates it. She cares for an elderly gentleman in his home, several times a week while he sleeps. Her tasks aren’t particularly hard—basically just to keep a watchful eye and be available. But she’s going to quit at the first opportunity.

When he’s awake, he’s mean to her. He makes unreasonable demands and tells her she’s not wanted. Usually in far more colorful language. It hurts her feelings, and she can’t stand the guy. Thinks he’s ungrateful and unworthy.

I try to build her up. I try to tell her how important she is. I try to get her to think about what he’s going through and feeling, and to cut him some slack. She understands all that in her head—but her heart says she can’t do this anymore. She’s tired of the abuse. And just plain tired.

That’s a big part of the problem we’re facing. With the proportion of older adults spiking by 2030, we desperately need caregivers. But it takes a special person—someone who understands what pain and imminent mortality and the awareness of eroding physical and mental faculties can do to an elderly person’s attitude and social graces.

Someone who can see the bigger picture, and who knows he or she is a hero. And there just aren’t enough of those.

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