For years, I saved articles on how to determine whether an elderly person needs more help or a change of living situation. But when the time came to intervene with my own mother -- widowed and living alone -- I was utterly unprepared for the emotions that flared and the strain it put on our relationship.
The question before us was "Are we caring with compassion or control?" I was sitting in a session at a recent geriatric conference in the north east. The speaker threw out this question... and I must admit, in all my years of being involved with, concerned about and responsible for providing care to someone "chronologically superior" (Yep, another new term since "old, aging, senior, and elderly" are the latest terms to become politically incorrect.) I had never thought of it in quite that way.
Nine years ago both of my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer's on the same day. My sister and I moved them out of the home in which they'd amassed heaps of everything that would not biodegrade throughout a 60-year marriage. I handled the bulk of the clean-out. Things were lost. Important things were lost.
Sometimes I think when we exchange those little glances and giggles about our dear old loved ones -- even when they show us glimpses of brilliance -- the joke is really on us. Maybe when we reach the age of "old," in between the crazy babbling and the far-off stares, we know exactly what we're doing, and what we're teaching.