January 10, 2013 § 2 Comments
As soon as I sit next to my friend Joanne, she says about her 80-year old mother who lives alone in the East Coast: “She fell in the kitchen, in the morning, just like that.” Then Joanne adds, “”I have to decide what to do with her”. A few days after, I sit in the car with Mario, another close friend with a 90-year-old mother who was recently found lying on the floor, alive, after she fainted. Mario was doing his best to decide what was the best solution for her. I felt uncomfortable with both of my friends. It seems to me that they were giving for granted that they knew better. I asked to both of them: “What do you think your mother desires?” Their replies were elusive. Then I read the title of this article in the Wall Street Journal: “Can Dad Still Live Alone?” Well, I asked to myself, who decides? How is the decision made? Who has more power, and why?
When I spent time with 47 San Franciscans over 75 living alone, a lack of connection with adult children often transpired from their stories.
Maybe a third party should be involved in mediating between parents living alone and adult children who know better. Maybe adult children need to make an extra effort, even in challenging situations, to understand what their parents truly wish.
Sometimes the most difficult decisions are those that bring us closer to our beloved ones. In Patrimony: A True Story, writer Philip Roth describes the pain to decide to let his father die in hospital. The writer decides to respect his father’s will rather than his wish to keep him alive longer. Yes, sometimes listening to others takes plenty of guts.