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Leave Older People Alone!

Updated on January 13, 2014

We love our parents and other older family members and want what's best for them. We read so much advice on how to treat them, how to make their lives better, what to do and what not to do, that I have come to one realization...we need to leave them alone, unless there is something very wrong going on in their world.

As my mom got older I tried to do everything so she wouldn't have to work as hard. She had severe back pain and arthritis, so I took over ironing, cleaning, gardening chores...anything and everything. She finally made the remark one day that she felt like no one needed her. It shocked me and made my heart sink. I realized that by doing everything for her, she felt useless. That was so far away from what I was trying to do it made me feel horrible. I slowly started asking for her help and letting her do more. She felt useful again.

That was a rude awakening for me. I had never thought my "help" would bring that reaction. I have since lost my dear mother and still regret that I made her feel that way. I wish I had known not to do that. Unfortunately, sometimes in our loving desire to give back to our elder relatives, we don't realize we are hurting more than helping.

I have become good friends with my neighbor, who is 76 years old. In the last 5 years she has lost both her husband and one of her sons. She is in fairly good health and accepts her aches and pains, but keeps going despite them. She shops, eats well and goes to Walmart and walks the store, looking up and down the aisles, for exercise. She and I talk almost every day and have long discussions on almost any subject you can think of.

Her daughter has mental issues and tried to commit suicide about a year ago. We talk about that a lot. She may be about twenty years older than me, but I honestly don't even think of that. She is very young for her age and we get along great. The problem lies with her daughter and son, who are on her about everything. Again, they are trying to help her and tell her what they think she should be doing. I know this is out of love for her, but they are driving her crazy.

At this point in her life, she enjoys relaxing at home with her little dog, who she loves dearly. She plays solitaire on her computer and reads. They think she should "get out more." She goes shopping at least once a week and goes over to her daughters at least once a week. She goes out more when she feels like it and stays in more when she doesn't feel up to it.

They think she should run to the doctor every time she so much as bumps her knee and gets a bruise. She deals with her health issues as they come along and goes to the doctor when she thinks it's serious. In other words, she is doing fine. To be honest, she is doing better than both of her kids and me, for that matter!

This is one of those cases where I want to tell them both to just "leave her alone" and yet I know they mean well. This is just one example of people thinking they know what's best for their aging parent (or any aging relative they love). We all mean well, we are honestly worried about them and are constantly reminded, through articles and TV, what our aging parents should be doing to live longer.

We've seen the cases of elderly people sitting on the couch all day, not eating, not taking their medications and just wasting away. That's what we are afraid will happen to our parents. Obviously, if you see such signs, it's time to step in and take over. However, if they are still relatively active, eating well and basically doing ok, leave them alone and let them be. They must be doing something right to still be around, right? Life has to be enjoyed or we can lose our will to live. Let older people enjoy their lives the way they see fit and that will be the very best "help" you can give them...that, just being there for them and your love.


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