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{ } AGING with an Attitude I Older Adults ARE Still Accountable overheard an older adult say, “I have earned the right to do what I want, to say what I want and certainly to not do what I don’t wish to do.” She was in a heated argu- ment with her daughter, whose face was a picture of extreme stress and sadness. The daughter was trying to convince her mom to keep her doctor’s appointment. When conducting client assessments for Visiting Angels, I have observed this type of exchange often. One must ask, is it right that when one has reached a certain age, they are exempt from accountability? What is accountability anyway? Here’s a definition from Dictionary. com: Being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable for your actions. It is the latter part of this definition that older adults buck rather frequently, especially when a sibling is asking them to do something they are resisting—like giving up the keys to the car or allowing a caregiver to assist them at home. Anyone who has lived through life’s trials and has entered “the golden years,” has earned the stripes to have their say. But maybe these reminders can help. 1. You did your best to take care of your children, and if you don’t have any, to be kind and good to relatives. Please remember that when they are suggesting ways to keep you health- ier—to keep you safe and even hap- pier—that is partly their way of giving back to you. The least you can do is have an open mind, listen, hear the love behind the suggestion(s). They are being accountable to you; remember your responsibility to them too. 2. Sometimes it isn’t just about you. Those who love you, and are helping you already, have other obligations. Although they are committed to ensuring that you are taken care of— 72 to ensure that your needs are met—they may need help so they can focus on their work or their children or even their health. Hear them out. Just like you think you may deserve to call the shots, by helping you, they have earned the right to be heard. It could be a win-win situation if you listen and open up! For example – you may end up liking the caregiver who comes in and takes care of your basic needs, and your daughter or son can visit and de-stress with you instead of running around to do errands for you. Being accountable not only means being responsible… but also ultimately being answerable for your actions. Any individual who wishes to live a life with some meaning must accept that there must be some form of account- ability! For relationships to work, there must be accountability, no matter the age. It is not about your right to leave unwashed dishes in the sink, or choosing not to attend a family party. It’s about the accountability to listen, to communicate and to hear them out. It’s about being truthful to your family. You raised your children to love, to give back. Trust them enough to tell them the truth about your health, your needs. .even your fears. Fear causes most older adults to camouflage their reality. When you hide the facts about your health, you are depriving your loved ones of the real YOU. They don’t expect you to be the unstoppable, unafraid superpower they knew when they were ten years old. Give them trust and respect—be hon- est with them, especially if your health challenges will affect them. Be accountable in the relationships GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN WINTER 2020 you have with other members of society as well. And, yes, with your caregiver, if you have one. A qualified caregiver comes with skills, good character, strong values. They deserve your kindness, respect, and patience. The caregivers need to follow their job description, the policies of the agency they may belong to, and to the State of California. In this relationship, your support of their obligations is the best way to express accountability to your caregiver. We all understand when an older adult feels like they have earned the right to call the shots, and to live the way they wish to. But, one must think of how the decision affects others. Will your choices hurt your relation- ships? Will they impose more on your children? Will they cause harm to someone who is already overwhelmed with life? If you expect others to be accountable, are you practicing accountability yourself? The daughter who was trying to get her Mom to keep her doctor’s appointment was concerned because her Mom had fallen several times (causing her to miss a lot of work). One can only hope the Mom recognizes her responsibility to her daughter, her obligation to be answerable for her actions. Expecting your daughter to leave her job to take care of you is not an accountable thought! Bottom Line: Please be answerable for your actions when dealing with those who are there for you. Written by Dorie Sugay, the Executive Director of Visiting Angels.