Thoughts on Getting Old!

I’m currently working with someone who is in rapid decline at the age of 91and suffering from the escalating effects of dementia. A few things have occurred to me. The inevitable questions ‘ how do I prepare for this and who do I involve?’ prompt more questions…….. and the one I am interested in most is to do with the loss of personal power. How do we handle this when it inevitably comes?

It seems to me that those people who are pro-active and self governing/ determining individuals, the ‘go out and get it’ people, may have the hardest time when they have to relinquish their power and control over their destiny to people they are likely not to know, let alone trust. The unhappiness and sense of resignation to the inevitable outcome seems to be the hardest thing they give to themselves to accept. Ironically their ‘get up and go’ leaves them and they give in! If they choose to fight….. rather than using their personal power to adapt….. they sink into loneliness and resentment, searching wildly for justification for doing so.

The other side of this coin is the person who has always seen themselves as victim in life (my 91 year old), the ‘it’s someone else’s fault so I don’t have to do anything or have anything to do with them’ ….types . They have already developed a catalogue of devices to get their needs met through covert methods and depend on a sense of grievance for their motivation. Eh voila!

And so I am witnessing a smiling, happily- accepting old lady, sit in her chair as if it was a rightful throne, having people wait on her, coax her, cater for her every need, talk for hours on end about the best thing to do for her and even squabbling over who should do it. Neighbours, care workers, sons, GP’s, paramedics, rapid response teams, community nurses, occupational health workers, physio’s, social care team workers, rehabilitation wards, respite carers – for one little old lady who is now somewhat away with the fairies anyway and who, in another setting (say 3rd world sector), would rely solely on her family’s ingenuity and devotion. In her current environment the family are actually impeded in their sense of control to respond to her needs by the seductive power of over complicated, fragmented ‘other agencies’ provision!

So. What of the ‘go out and get it’ people. What can they do as the inevitable loss of personal power looms. Take control now. My Mum has always been an avid reader. She’s also been one of the most practical people I know. I mean in how she tackles a problem with a solution in mind, using and trusting her creative responses and resourcefulness to deliver. Keeping busy has been her method when trouble appears. She has spent the last few years adapting to her new found incapacity (arthritis and other stuff). She can’t keep busy any more. So she’s gone back to reading about people who are or have been busy!

In terms of personal power and self- determination, what my Mum is doing is choosing to keep herself busy through reading about other people’s experiences.

Anyone out there including myself, a ‘go out and get it/fix it/make it happen person’, would do well to get this sort of stuff in place for the time when we can’t ‘get busy’ practically and in reality. Luckily the virtual world is out there. Electronically AND in real books.! That’s the key I suspect.

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