You Can Help the Elderly, Too
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
July 15, 2021
First of all, an elder is a person. 
Someone in the golden age is a human being who needs love, care, attention, time and dedication, just as in the earlier stages of life. And yes, sometimes they need care. 
Now is the time to “find the courage to create spaces where everyone can feel called, and to make possible new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity,” said Pope Francis on March 27, 2020, from the empty St. Peter’s Square. 
That the abandoned and abused elderly suffer injustices is a topic that should concern everyone because old age is everyone’s future.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the death toll among the eldery in long-term care institutions was high. 
According to a report in the New York Times citing Centers for Disease Control figures, in the U.S., at least one-third of coronavirus deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities.
In Europe, as many as half of the coronavirus deaths occurred in nursing homes, reported a letter from the Vatican written by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia and Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, on Feb. 2. They quoted the head of the European Office of the World Health Organization who called the figures an “unimaginable tragedy.” 
An alternative, then is the family as the ideal environment for an older adult. And this basic unit of society needs to be prepared to take good care of parents, grandparents, and those in their senior years. 
But, “... our societies are not organized well enough to make room for the elderly, with proper respect for their dignity and frailty. When the elderly are not cared for, there is no future for the young,” Pope Francis tweeted on June 15, 2020.
There are certain steps that individuals, family, friends, society and Church need to take in order to ensure good care of the aging population.
Individuals should plan in advance
Human life is to be protected and all medical decisions should reflect this, according to Catholic teaching and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 
The USCCB says that “every human person is distinct and unrepeatable, and each medical situation may be unique ... . We should be prepared for those difficult situations.
“We can safeguard our Catholic values by appointing a responsible and trustworthy person now to make decisions for us, in the event that we are incapable for doing so, either physically or mentally,” the conference adds.
Through a proxy decision-maker — a person with medical power of attorney — or with a living will, someone “can declare in writing that all treatment and care decisions made on their behalf must be consistent with and not contradict the moral teaching of the Catholic Church,” adds the USCCB.
Similarly, older people can organize and protect their finances.
This can be with the advice of a professional financial planner who places protection of a “senior’s financial wellbeing as a high priority,” said Matthew Young. 
Young who has a Kingdom Advisors certficate demonstrating his study of biblically based financial planning, is a financial advisor from LPL Financial, a Texas-based firm. He manages the Rockford Diocese’s retirement and lay pension plan.
“First,” he says, “have a financial power-of-attorney drawn up and ready if it needs to be enacted. This document allows a person to legally make financial decisions when the senior cannot or does not want to make those decisions.” 
He also suggests having “a trusted person ... named on financial accounts and investment accounts.
 This is a person who does not have the power to act or make changes in the senior’s account but it does allow the investment professional to contact this person if they see any questionable behavior or activity that concerns the representative.” 
Family and friends have a role
When the care of an aged person falls to family or friends, it is important to consider where the person grew up; what type of activities he or she enjoys, such as reading, walking, listening to old music, gardening or watching TV. 
“It’s most important to listen to the older person and give them a voice in the process of making decisions,” says Cathy Weightman-Moore, director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Rockford. 
Among the assistance family and friends can provide is simply visiting the elderly.
“Social isolation and loneliness are serious yet underappreciated public health risks that affect a significant portion of the older adult population,” according to a 2020 publication from National Academies of Sciences in Washington, D.C. (Info:
Isolation results in higher “risk for premature mortality, comparable to other risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, or obesity.” 
Still, “Approximately one-quarter of community-dwelling Americans aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated, and a significant proportion of adults in the United States report feeling lonely,” the publication continued.
Stay in touch
Visit grandparents and older family friends not only for Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving. Call them during the week. Invite them to a park, to go to church, to have a meal. Send letters, cards and photos. 
Take advantage of technology and plan family Zoom parties or video phone chats. 
Listen to their stories, even those that are already familiar.Listen lovingly and kindly and respect their expressions of family and personal history. 
Do not try to change their personalities and beliefs. Some may act more like kids and perhaps need as much care as a child needs. The task for others is to respect their ideas and feelings. 
Sometimes as they near the end of the circle of life, sons and daughters become the adults making decisions for the parents. Respect and love, love and respect are key.
Some other older men or women keep a bright mind and have much wisdom to share but can be stubborn at times. 
In any case, remember Matthew 7:12: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” 
Keep an eye on their wellbeing 
Keep in mind their medical conditions, what type and how often they need to take their medicine.
Know their health insurance provider and which is their preferred hospital. Keep the addresses and phone numbers accessible. 
Make sure elders are clean head to toe. Let them use their favorite perfume or cologne. Make sure they wear clean and neat clothing and shoes. Comb their hair. Arrange for manicures, pedicures and haircuts.
Their food should be healthy, delicious, and served nicely. Take your time to accompany them or feed them, with patience. 
If you are in a restaurant, try to avoid noisy places that may make them feel uncomfortable.
Keep an eye on their spiritual health
Prayers are vital always, and in the last stages of life, prayer groups are important, as is bringing an elderly person to Mass, confession and Communion. 
When appropriate, arrange for a priest to anoint the sick at home or in a care facility.
Look to parishes for ideas, too.
St. John Neumann Parish in St. Charles provides links to a variety of useful information and services for the family and its older members. 
For example, on the St. John Neumann website is information from suggesting a simple phone call can make a difference. 
The graphic explains that 20% of those over 65 who live on their own are considered socially isolated and “43% of adults over 60 report experiencing loneliness.”
Simple phone calls can help seniors “feel important, connected and loved in a very unique way,” it explains. A nice conversation could make the difference between a sad or a good day.
Caregivers need care
Taking care of the caregiver it is also important because caring for a family member, a friend, or doing the job of serving an older adult can be stressful.
In order to be able to provide the best care, caregivers also need to be in good condition physically, emotionally and spiritually. 
“If you are caring for a loved one at home, don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and exhausted before you reach out for help,” says Weightman-Moore. 
“Sometimes people need more care than can be provided at home and nursing home care may be needed,” she adds. 
For that reason, she suggests  reaching out “to the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program for information about the rights of residents, options, and how to navigate the system.
They have a wealth of information and experience to help guide you, provide information and teach you how to advocate for your loved one,” she adds.
At the community level, the Gail Borden Library in Elgin recently offered Stress Busters, “a nine week research-based program designed for family caregivers. This program addresses the overwhelming task of caregiving and gives a different coping strategy each week.” (Info:
Population growth
The U.S. Census Bureau says, “The number of people in the oldest old age group is projected to grow ... to 8.7 million in 2030. In 2050, this group is projected to reach 19 million.”
Similarly, the CDC estimates, “There will be 71 million people aged 65 years old and older when all baby boomers are at least 65 years old in 2030.” 
By 2025, according to World Health Organization projections, “about three-quarters of the population aged 60 or over will be living in developing countries.” 
Additional estimates place the number of people with dementia at 81 million by 2040 with as much as 71.2% of them in developing countries.
“Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia among western countries, corresponding to about 60% of cases,” according to an article in BioMed Research International, a medical journal.
“Caregiving is an important public health issue that affects the quality of life for millions of individuals,” according to the CDC. 
Following Pope Francis’ lead, it is also a spiritual issue that Catholics are called upon to help resolve. 
For the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, families are encouraged to visit, write and communicate with their loved ones on July 25 and every day.
Check your parish website or bulletin to learn of blessings or events being planned for July 25. 
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