In my copy of "The 36-Hour Day" I read about ‘problems with independent living’ and how different families cope. One recurring issue is an older person’s unwillingness to surrender their financial responsibilities when they become overwhelmed. The book quotes many examples. After a series of examples that make perfect sense the last one is described by the authors as ‘extreme.’ This is the example:-
‘Mrs. H…. is fiercely independent about money, so Mr. H gave her a purse with some change in it. He put her name and address in it in case she lost her purse. She insisted on paying her hairdresser by check long after she could not responsibly manage a checkbook. So Mr. H gave her some checks stamped VOID by the bank. Each week she gives one to the hairdresser. Mr. Hutchinson privately arranged with the hairdresser that these would be accepted and that he would pay the bills.’
Well done Mr. H! Now to me, from my perspective, this doesn’t seem in the least bit extreme. It’s a great idea, an accommodation, but it’s not in the least bit extreme. I take great comfort from this tale because it tells me that I am more than well enough equipped to deal with whatever lies ahead of us. I am so used to jumping through hoops, over hoops and around hoops.
Sadly, this also means that I am used to failure. The first attempt doesn’t work, so we try something else and so on, time and again until we find a good fit. I have an example of my own.
You see last year we had this "problem," what we American’s call an ‘issue.’ The issue was Nonna’s independence. I understood how frustrating it was for her to be carless, especially in America. Nonna has always been a walker so instead of being cooped up in the house she naturally decided to take a stroll. Quite often it is difficult to remember details when you’re on holiday such as your hotel room number or perhaps the name of the hotel when they all look so alike, so it was understandable that Nonna had difficulty with this too.
It was a worrisome time.
Other families might be able to allow a grandchild to accompany their Nonna but that wasn’t an option for us. Although our house has more locks and chains than the average home this did not deter Nonna. I’m sure there are many valid reasons for restricting someone’s freedom for their own safety but I was not happy with the idea of imposing such limits on my mother in law. I was not in a position to shadow her movements once she was outside the house as I had other responsibilities, not necessarily more important but certainly more immediate.
The crunch time came when a kindly neighbour returned a thoroughly disorientated Nonna to our front door, as she had found herself completely lost only a few blocks away from home.
We had already printed off the equivalent of a business card with appropriate details for her hand bag. Often she left without her hand bag. Then we tried printing off a six block map of the immediate vicinity, in extra large print, three copies, laminated, but it suffered from the same inherent problem, a map is of no use if it resides in your bedroom when you most need it.
Hence this year, this summer, these issues have been on my mind, worries. What to do? How to help? How to keep her safe? How to engineer freedom and independence? I’d guess that you too are racking your brain to come up with ideas because we all want what is best for Nonna? I feel people’s sympathy and good wishes, so I know that you’ll be as sad as me to know that this year it is no longer a problem, a non-issue. Nonna no longer ventures out of the confines of the garden, so maybe not a non-issue but a different issue entirely.
4 hours ago