When friends slow down

My wife and I have three dogs. The oldest of the dogs, Kiah, is probably 12 or 13 years old.

When we first started doing our walks with the dogs, Kiah was young. We had to keep our eye on her because she would run out ahead of us. Through the years, her running slowed down and eventually she dropped behind and figured out shortcuts to avoid the long route while still smelling her favorite places.

Recently I was able to do a solo trip to Colorado and took all three dogs. While on a three-hour hike I had to wait several times on Kiah to catch up. Near the end of the hike, I could tell she was quite exhausted.

The next day, Kiah was just as excited about a walk, though tired from the previous day’s hike.

One of the difficult aspects about growing older is when we have a loved one that begins slowing down. And many times, it’s painful to experience.

I recall when I moved my grandmother from Texas to Hays. I was thrilled that for the first time in my life I was going to be able to live in the same town with my grandmother. I had great plans: going to church every Sunday, having the family over for dinner and grandmother sitting at the head of the table and showing her the office where I work and the town and state that I love.

When I moved her to Kansas she was 92. She had slowed down a lot more than I realized. It was much easier for her to go to the church service in the assisted living facility, than to go through all the work of going with my family. She enjoyed us coming over to eat with her rather than having to get out. I realized that so many activities I wanted to do required too much physical activity for her.

Initially this was hard on me. But I learned to accept that we were doing what we could do at a pace that she could do it. And she was still enjoying what we did together.

It is difficult when our loved ones begin to slow down. But we need to remember that it doesn’t mean that they’re not enjoying themselves just as much.

Many times when I meet with clients, and particularly their children, they remark about how mom and dad have slowed down. It is difficult for the children to accept. Sometimes I must remind the children about their parent’s age, or perhaps they’re dealing with a chronic illness.

Just because we slow down doesn’t mean we aren’t enjoying life.

That applies to Kiah as well. On that day of the long walk, many times I would wait for her. She would catch up to me and I would pat her and say, “Good girl, Kiah.” Suddenly she would have a little bit of spring in her action and would trot ahead of me.

Though the hike that day was exhausting for her, it didn’t quell her enthusiasm for doing what she can do. Though we are all growing older and slowing down, we can still enjoy the walk together. Be glad for the moment, even if you start taking short cuts.

—Randy Clinkscales is an attorney with Clinkscales Elder Law Practice with offices in Hays and Wichita, Kansas.