GROWING OLD IS NOT FOR SISSIES, Part 2:
Saying it to Seniors
"You can't shake hands with a clenched fist."
I was headed to Mississippi to help talk with my mother-in-law about the need to move to a nursing home. On the way out the door I grabbed my well-worn copy of David Soleil's masterful book, How to Say it to Seniors. Flying along in the early morning darkness, I re-read it and prayed for insight and understanding. I knew I needed wisdom beyond my own for this situation.
How to Say it to Seniors explains that the elderly feel as though the world is closing in on them. They struggle, against relentless pressure, to maintain a measure of control and freedom in their lives. They've lost the ability to drive. They aren't allowed to cook. They can't go anywhere by themselves. They feel trapped. Their natural, instinctive urge is to push back, to attempt to retain or re-assert control in any way they can. To succeed with seniors, Soleil says, you need to stop pushing and try to align your approach with that urgency. Locking horns and bullying your way forward will only create greater resistance.
My prayers for insight and wisdom were answered in mid-air, and I understood I had to do two things. First, my task would be to identify and present a rationale from her viewpoint for the wisdom of this move. I would need to provide a "why" that would resonate with her view of her world. Second, I would have to find ways to give her the greatest possible say-so in the "how" of this transition. While many options were off the table, my responsibility would be to search for choices she could make. I would need to push back when others tried to take more control than they needed to. With this game-plan coming together in my mind, I turned off the reading light and took a little nap to get ready for the long day ahead. . . .
To be continued.