Inez Castor

Sitting on the floor, I lifted the swollen, purple foot from the basin of warm water into the towel on my lap. I gently patted it dry, then soothed the aged tissues with Vaseline and loving touch before working a clean, soft sock on and repeating the process with the other foot.

We talked softly, the man and I, and our inability to understand each other's words didn't hamper our ability to communicate at all. Soaking feet is often a good way to begin caring for an elder with dementia. In a world that no longer makes any sense at all, there's nothing threatening about a smiling woman on the floor at your feet. Besides, feet are almost always in worse shape than any of the rest of the body and it gives the caregiver a good assessment opportunity.

Six years to the day after my final patient passed away, friends

needed my skills for one day during a family emergency. The gentleman

didn't know me, but I knew and admired him and remembered a time when he

did know me.

Basically I'm a peaceful person, a live and let live sort. I don't

usually get hung up on proper word usage. But every now and again

something irritates me fiercely, and what the oyster turns into a pearl,

I turn into indigestion. The care of the most vulnerable in our society

and the manner in which caregivers are treated and considered is one of

those things.

Frequently I hear or read of someone being a "caretaker" for an

elder, usually one who has been harmed in some way. The words we use

both shape and reflect the world we live in, and this is such a gross

misuse of language, such a denigration of those who lovingly care for

others, that it frankly makes me livid.

You "take" care of property, like tractors, RV parks or summer homes.

You take care of your neighbors' livestock while they're gone. It is

something one does, hopefully well and honorably. You "give" care to

people. Whether they be the babies of young working folks or their

grandparents, caring for people is a giving, loving, personal


Every year more Americans require care. I got to stay home with my

babies, but now virtually every young mother has to leave her children

to earn a living. As life expectancy continues to increase, the number

of frail elders requiring personal care also increases. And yet we still

hear about "baby sitters" and "caretakers." They're paid little and get

little respect.

Those who change diapers on our babies and our elders, who make sure

they eat right and try to teach or give them pleasure, deserve respect.

In exchange, they should get all the education they can in order to

bring skills as well as heart to the work. We need to change the

perception of caregivers. Most of us are trying to be the sort of

caregivers we may someday need.

Reach Inez Castor, a longtime Triplicate columnist, at