I TALK TO a lot of people.
Well more to the point, a lot of people talk to me.
One of the subjects that a lot of people talk to me about is their parents. Or parent.
It seems that a lot of these kids who talk to me about their parents actually like them, so they worry about them because they want them to be OK.
They want them to be âŚ safe.
And in my world, safe is often another word for love.
Here are some things that some kids say to me:
âSheâs just so âŚ stubborn.â
Has she always been stubborn? Yes?
Then, this isnât a change, huh?
And what would she do to stop being stubborn?
This is where it often gets quiet â at least for a minute.
âWell, sheâd move out of that big old house where sheâs all alone and (a) move in with us, (b) move into that lovely facility I found, (c) move in with my sister, (d) get her medications checked, (e) get some help to come in, (f) get rid of those little dogs that sheâs going to fall over and kill herself on, (g) quit driving, (h) start getting those âhome-delivered meals,â (i) become somebody that Iâve never seen before in my entire life.â
Right. So, in other words, in order to stop being stubborn sheâd do what you want her to do so sheâll be safe, right?
Hereâs what your mom knows that you donât: Nobody on this planet has ever received a guarantee of safety and they likely never will.
Besides, safe just isnât the most important thing to her.
I know that weâve been around this block before, but it keeps coming up because good, loving folks want me to tell them how to keep their parents (or grandparents, in-laws, old friends or whomever) safe.
Oh sure, I can talk for hours about gizmos, programs, services, ideas, techniques, approaches and resources.
The fact is, these things often work â if work means make things better and reduce risk.
But if you want me to tell you how to be sure your mom is safe, hereâs the truth:
Put her in a warm place with lots of staff people (or family) to watch over her all the time and tell her what to do and when, be sure she can never go anywhere or do anything that they (or you) donât know about or approve, reduce all risk of falls, burns and accidents, then sew her to the sofa so you can keep track of her.
Or him. Or them.
Now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and pretend youâre her â how does all that sound to you?
And youâd rather be âŚ?
I know. Me, too.
Maybe weâre just stubborn.
When folks describe things that their mom is or isnât doing because they wish that she would or wouldnât, one of the first things I usually ask is, âIs that out of character?â
If the answer is âyes,â then we need to talk about medical issues, drug interactions or UTIs, etc.
But if the answer is, âWell, no,â then we need to talk about ânegotiation.â
Well, what would you call it?
You want your mom to do stuff (or not do stuff) that she isnât (or is) doing.
Your mom, assuming the absence of any of those ors above, is obviously doing (or not doing) what she darn well pleases.
Sounds like ânegotiationâ to me.
Iâm being too simplistic, you say?
Youâre absolutely right because sometimes your mom is scared and doesnât know what to do, what kind of help is out there, wouldnât even know help if she saw it.
But she doesnât want to burden you.
Hey, sheâs spent a lot of her life being about you, so does it surprise you that she still is?
But sometimes it isnât about help, ignorance, fear or even martyrdom.
Sometimes itâs about your mom being your mom.
So the question becomes: Who did you want her to be?
There is almost always some kind of help available â believe me, I know, itâs what I do.
But help is only help if it helps, and unwanted help doesnât.
Now do that thing again where you close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine being safe, but this time, pretend youâre you.
Do you know what you just saw?
Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [emailÂ protected].