Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Aging and Independence

My step dad fell earlier this week and is in a lot of pain, making it difficult to walk, sit, or just about anything. He was trying to pick up something he had dropped on the floor and fell out of his wheelchair. The brakes weren’t locked, but from the description, I’m not sure it would have made a lot of difference.

I think one of the hardest things about getting old must be to accurately gauge your present abilities, rather than living in the memory of your past abilities. I know I feel that way. My body is 59 and aging quickly; my mind is still 35 and can’t figure out why I can’t do what I’ve always done.

Dad’s generation is famous for their fierce independence. Now, at 90, he still believes that if he can think it, he can do it. Nearly blind, he continued to work on his truck until just before he fell a year ago. He would describe to Mom what needed to be done and use her as his eyes and hands. Even after several falls and a year in a nursing home, he stubbornly refuses to ask for help. And Mom is about as bad as she continues to try to help him, steady him, and now, get him in and out of bed and wheelchair.

I ask her why she does it. Doesn’t she realize the risk she’s putting herself at? Yes, she says she does. But he needs help, and she doesn’t like asking for help or telling him no. So she lifts, pulls, pushes, and steadies. My greatest fear is that she will fall and end up needing care herself. What a shame since she is engaging in a known risk. But she's an adult, and I don't seem to have a lot of influence with her.

I can barely keep up with their needs at this stage, where she is still able to handle the day-to-day issues. Managing two of them in care would, I think, stretch me beyond my limits, and yet, like her, I suppose I’d do it. Yes, once again, I feel smooshed.

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