My Mom is a geriatric social worker and advocates for elders in need, especially those with impaired mental and/or physical health. She chose this field in 2004, in the midst of her Grammy’s long, slow battle against Alzheimer’s disease. My Mom wanted to lend her voice to people like Grammy, who couldn’t speak for themselves.
Grammy was a strong woman who spent her life caring for others, but as the Alzheimer’s took over Grammy became entirely dependent on those same people. Towards the end, she could no longer say she was thirsty, had to use the bathroom, was in pain, or was frightened. Grammy relied on her family to speak for her – to notice when she looked uncomfortable, tired, hungry, or scared.
Fast forward to February 2009, when my Mom brought me – a 15 year old Pit Bull – home from the Pennsylvania SPCA. My Mom didn’t realize it at the time, but she became my voice. I was the elder, literally and figuratively, who could not advocate for myself. I needed someone to notice when I looked uncomfortable, tired, hungry, or scared.
Whether my Mom is advocating for elders with Alzheimer’s or for older dogs like me, her message is exactly the same: we must lend our voices to those who can’t speak for themselves.
Grammy lost her battle with Alzheimer’s disease in October 2006. But I’m helping my Mom ensure that Grammy’s voice is still heard. How? By visiting elders at nursing homes and rehab centers through a program called “Pals for Life,” which I got certified for in spring 2009. Mom and I visit elders throughout Philadelphia so they can pet me, rub my belly, scratch my head, and give me treats.
It’s my way of telling them that someone is listening. Besides, compassion can be communicated without any words at all….and who better to communicate compassion than a 15.5 year old Pit Bull like me?