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{ } AGING with an Attitude It’s Your Turn to Ask Questions Dorie Sugay is the Executive Director of Visiting Angels, a company that provides living-assistance services to seniors and adults-in-need who wish to stay in their own home or receive one-on-one care within a facility. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It was written independently of Visiting Angels. 92 W hen you were a teenager, your parents may have interrogated you as if you were in an enemy camp. You may have clung to something as their probing went deeper and deeper, feeling like you had to protect your privacy. Maybe your anger barometer shot up in reaction to their seeming absence of trust in you. Now as adults, we know that our parents or guardians asked so many questions because they cared. For the most part, they asked questions to make sure we were not getting ourselves in trouble. During those times, tough love was in action. They risked being unpopular but they asked anyway…because they cared. As young adults, we did not want our parents to know what we were getting into, even when we were towing the line – it was a matter of principle; after all, we were not children any more. They didn’t have to know everything, right? As adults with aging parents, we sometimes find it is our turn to ask questions. If you find yourself in this position, it may be time to show tough love to your parents, if that is what it takes. Warning – do not try this at home without preparing yourself, but if your parents’ actions are raising your eyebrows, it is time that YOU ask questions so you can better help your senior loved ones travel the aging pathway, or take over their care. It is time you take a risk, to show you care and be able to give good care. If your parents are accepting and comfortable with the trials of aging, you may not need to read this article. This is for those with parents who don’t share information freely. We often hear comments like this: “Dad won’t shower, he goes into the bathroom but comes out dry, and tells me he showered. And he used to be so well-groomed all the time!” Folks – this is not about not wanting to shower. ASK questions. And yes, many times you have to offer multiple possibilities. “Are you worried about falling again?” “Is it too cold for you?” “Steve next door gets dizzy when he showers, is that an issue for you too?” Many seniors won’t tell you what they fear or what they are experiencing for many reasons. You need to ask questions! “Mom stopped wanting to go play bridge with the ladies, we don’t know why.” Finding the right moment to ask questions is key. Don’t ask them about things they resist or are sensitive about in front of others. If you put them on the spot, you may never learn the reason(s) why they resist something they used to love, for example. “Mom, did anything happen at the bridge party two months ago? I noticed you stopped going, and you used to GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY / AUGUST 2016 love it.” Maybe someone upset her. Your Mom may not necessarily run to you to say that someone made her feel old and incapacitated but may be grateful that you offered to listen. A client of ours stopped going to her favorite card games because another lady joked about walkers being unglamorous. Conscious of how she looked, she stopped going. A veteran client of ours stopped having coffee with his buddies because having a caregiver drive him to the coffee house was embarrassing to him. You can’t help with an alternate solution without first gathering information! “She complains that I don’t call her, but then she won’t answer the phone. When I ask her why she is not answering the phone, she is evasive. On the other hand I tell her to call me and she won’t. It is so frustrating.” Ask questions… calmly. Mom, can you hear the phone when you are in the living room? Some of them hate the idea of getting a hearing aid and yet they can’t hear too well. By the way, even if you ask, they may not tell you. Be observant. Then confront them with data you have gathered. “You didn’t hear that phone, so I am going to turn up the ringer, if that is ok with you.” And she may not be calling because she can’t see the numbers too well. Surprise her with one of those phones with big numbers; some even allow you to program phone numbers, and you can put the picture of the individual whose programmed number corresponds to that phone dial pad. With many seniors, you have to ask and observe so you can figure out what really is going on. Yes, there are unreasonable people, but being unreasonable is not necessarily part of aging. When your loved one seems unreasonable or resistant to something important, don’t just accept it as part of their aging process – ask questions. “You haven’t taken your medications, why?” Ask and be observant. If they have arthritic hands, has it gotten too tough to pick up the medications with their fingers? Is it time to put it in a little medication cup? Has your dad forgotten to take his pills or did he get confused and thought he already took it? Especially when the answer could allude to new limitations because of age or a medical issue, be sensitive but don’t take the easy path and let it go. There are ways to help your parents remem- ber, to help them clear up confusion and lean on you a little for help with solutions. Ask, please! Your parents loved you enough to take risks – they asked questions that could help them guide you, support and care for you, even when they saw fire in your eyes. Here’s a tip – they wanted you to love them too, they wanted to be the cool parent too BUT they love you enough to take a risk. Now it’s your turn, and you can do the same for them.