Is That Me?

I see myself as a forty something but then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and reality hits when I see a sixty something looking back at me. This may be true of the individuals in your care. They remember a time when they could be on their feet all day, prepare five course meals from scratch, babysit all the grand kids and still have time and energy for hobbies and friends. Often there is a big disconnect between who they were once and who they are now. Recently I was at the doctor’s office with my mother-in-law when she was asked if she still lived on her own. The doctor was trying to evaluate her physical abilities and mental acuity. She replied yes. However, she neglected to add that home care workers come into her home to assist with her shower, physical therapists with her flexibility and muscle strength, and a nurse three times a week to monitor and assist with her health issues. My wife and I come each day to make an evening meal, grocery shop, assist with correspondence, schedule appointments, empty the trash and take care of general housekeeping issues. The point being that my mother-in-law stills sees herself as she was ten years ago when she could completely function on her own. Since she is still involved in all these activities, unless pressed she will neglect to mention that she is receiving any help with them. I think she wants to believe, and others to believe that she is still physically capable of functioning independently. One of the dangers inherent in this is when medical professionals are trying to diagnose a physical malady. Having accurate information about one’s abilities and lifestyle is critical. After her appointment I discussed with my mother-in-law why the doctor asked for the information. How he was trying to determine why she was fatigued and what could be the source. Also we had a tactful discussion about the reality of her lifestyle and how all people experience life’s passages.

-Contributing writer Bill Mishico