Sunday, June 29, 2008

Living Independently

Another July 4th arrives. It’s quite the holiday for us Americans, even with the fireworks and barbeque. I find myself especially focused on the theme of independence in a whole new way since we opened Capabilities. We’ve said it before; individuals will push and shove, fight and make many a sacrifice to stay free, to live independently. I understand more clearly my mother’s resistance to the family’s efforts to “take care of her” as she aged. There was a fine line between caregiving and stepping on her toes. And, she let us know when any of us made that faux pas.

And now, I see it so often in our store. Loving sons and daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews want so much to be sure that their relative has what he or she needs to be comfortable. The shock of a negative reaction sometimes inflames all parties, right in the middle of the store. I am often impressed, though, at the quick recovery that takes place, especially when mom or dad, grandpa or Aunt Peggy wins the argument and all parties leave for a cup of coffee or lunch. I remember many a shopping experience just like that.

One of our recent families has struck me with their artful walking of this line of perception. Debbie called to ask for some help preparing their home for Uncle Max, a bachelor who had lived alone up until the decision just a couple of weeks ago to move in with Debbie and her husband, Bill. They assessed their lives and their relationship with Max before they brought up the suggestion to him. And, Max took the time he needed to ponder the consequences of choosing to move out of his assisted living facility. Part of the deal was to be space in their home. So, Debbie wanted some help figuring out just what would have to change. The process is still underway as Debbie, Bill and Max get used to the idea of his new digs. He just moved in a few days ago. Being part of this research and family decision is thrilling for me and all of us, as we see ourselves as problem solvers.

Every step of the way Debbie and Bill gather ideas and talk them over with Max. He still has all his decision –making skills and they are respectful not to step on them. Max is also mindful that he is living in their home now and is respectful about boundaries. I praise them all. Max will most likely live longer as a result and everyone in that house will be happier ultimately. Yes, there will be some sacrifices to be certain. Debbie is slowly reconciling the fact that she will have to redo their bathroom, her pride and joy, to accommodate Max. We talked, though, about starting slowly with a transfer bench and handheld shower, rather than ripping out the tub. They may have to consider a full makeover, but a gradual approach will preserve everyone’s independence along the way.

So, on this holiday, let’s all renew our resolve that while independence is a right, it takes some working on always, especially when physical challenges appear in the family dynamic.

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