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Fearless at Fourteen

Last week, the 110th Fearless Caregiver Conference started out of the gate at full gallop. One of the first questions during the morning Q&A session set the tone for the day. A 30-something-year-old goateed man stood up and said, “I’m from up north and my question is about long-distance caregiving. I have a 90-year-old mother who lives here in Boca Raton. I am her only son, yet she is quick to say “Don’t bother me” if I offer help. She doesn’t believe in doctors. Fiercely independent, she just got her driver’s license renewed for five more years. Yesterday, I opened her refrigerator—one can of nuts and four eggs. She is extremely sharp and makes it a point to tell me often. She fell down and fractured her pelvis a few years ago, but says it never happened. My issue is that she wants to live independently, but every time I see her she gets weaker and thinner…I don’t know what to do. One of the reasons I came down here at this point is to get some advice from this conference. What can I do?”

Well, I can shamelessly admit that I wait all morning for such a challenge. When a question like this shows up, I like to start what I refer to as “A Caregiver Answer Thread.” Instead of going on to the next question after a few answers, we stay on the topic for a while. I certainly got more than I bargained for in responses.
From the expert panelists to the caregivers in the audience, the answers ranged from contacting geriatric care managers, the Area Agency on Aging elder help line and local support groups, to utilizing what I like to call Caregiver Jujitsuto try and get her to see that any help is more for your well-being than for hers. And even try to get her to see that she is actually the CEO of her own care.

But my favorite response came when a hand shot up attached to a most unexpected respondent—a 14-year-old girl. A grandparent caregiver in attendance brought one of her young charges with her and this fresh-faced young lady was ready with some sage advice: “I know I’m really young to know about this, but I think your mom is trying to make you come toward her more rather than push you away. The more trouble she presents to you, the more she would see you in town. I think you need to try hard to see the situation through her eyes.”

I presented this teen-sager with a much-deserved button proclaiming “I am a Fearless Caregiver – Don’t mess with me” which she wore proudly the rest of the day.

If this young lady is any indication of what the next generation has to offer, I think we are all in good, smart, capable and caring hands.

Gary Barg

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