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Firecrackers

Firecrackers

Feisty, spirited, curmudgeonly, fiercely independent, stubborn. We know people who embody these words. They are our friends and our family members. They are the firecrackers who can be explosive at times.

The desire to be independent doesn’t decrease with age. This can make it challenging when the firecracker in our life needs help but rejects our offers of assistance.

“I’m fine!”, “I don’t care!” “It’s no big deal” “Just leave me ALONE!”  are all comments that caregivers of firecrackers encounter. The reality is, we retain our right to make bad choices as we age. Those bad choices can have far reaching consequences for all involved.

There can be many reasons why someone resists help. Acknowledging the need for help can trigger feelings of grief and anger over the loss of the ability to do that which they now require help with. Asking for and receiving help can leave them feeling vulnerable and afraid. Fear, grief, vulnerability and anger are an effective match for a firecracker.

So what can you do to avoid your firecracker from blowing up at you?

First, figure out what help they need and what services are available to meet those needs.

If proper nutrition is a concern, perhaps they are only fixing soup or cereal for their meals, figure out why. Cooking for one can be less than exciting, or maybe the groceries are too heavy to carry in from the car, or being able to clearly see the cooking instructions has become a challenge. There are a wide variety of meal prep companies that deliver complete nutritionally sound meals to the home. There are also grocery delivery services like Be Kind RI that will pick up food from the market or from the food pantry and bring it to your door. Perhaps you can offer to join them for dinner more often.

If bathing is a concern figure out why. Not everyone in Pennsylvania bathes every day. Does the person have difficulty stepping into the tub or does arthritis make it difficult to manipulate the faucets? There are custom cabinets, tub cuts, shower benches and different faucets or sink & faucet that can be installed. Did they previously go to the hairdresser to have their hair washed? Might it be possible that they have dementia and have trouble with recalling whether they did or didn’t bathe or the sequence involved with bathing.

Second, have a conversation about what they would prefer to have happen and who they would like to have help them. If necessary, enlist others to provide assistance and encouragement.

Some can’t imagine a “stranger” in their house helping them into the shower while others are adamant that they would rather have “hired help” assist them rather than asking a family member. Perhaps it’s a task that a trusted friend can help with like a ride to church.

Position the conversation in “I” statements rather than telling someone what you think they must do. Be sure to include demonstrable examples.

For example,

I love you Dad and I’ve noticed you’ve lost weight since Mom died. There’s no supper dishes in the sink-only a cereal bowl. Would you agree to having meals delivered so I’m not so worried about you not getting enough to eat?

Or as another example,

Mom you’ve mentioned your knees are really hurting more now. Bringing the laundry downstairs must be really painful. I don’t want you to hurt. Can I come by each week and do the laundry with you?

Each of these examples allows you to express how you feel, examples of why you feel that way and provides a possible solution. The statements end with a question giving the power to the firecracker to decide.

We retain our right to make our own decisions as we age. We live with the consequences of those decisions but so do those who love us.  Firecrackers-Handle with care!

I hope you have a wonderful 4th of July!

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