My New Self . . . Where Do I Find Resources?

Eileen Doherty“I don’t understand myself . . . I’m different now . . . I don’t feel like cooking tonight . . . and going to the supermarket is too much work “. . . “My daughter does some shopping for me”. “But the high salt meals in box are not very tasty . . . and I don’t feel like getting up to make one this eve­ning.” “This is the conversation I have with myself”, one of my elder friend’s shares with me on a recent meeting.

She goes on to share her thoughts about bathing “I don’t feel like taking a bath tonight . . . So, maybe I’ll take one in the morning”, she says. But by morning she relates that “she has convinced herself it’s too much work to clean the shower . . . and besides my daughter tells me to wait until I can be there so I won’t fall”. The perfect excuse my friend says and she goes yet another day without a shower as her daughter is too busy to come by while she takes a shower.

My friend shares “I know I should stop driving . . . but how will I get to church, to the doctor and to the grocery store, espe­cially when my daughter is too busy”. So I keep driving because I want to be independent and not have to depend on anyone else. Besides reasons my friend “It gets me out of the house”.

But my friend is introspec­tive and worries about the deci­sions she is making for her “new self”. She recognizes that she has trouble remembering, finds herself needing help with simple tasks like opening the jelly jar and is becoming less able to manage the world around her. She shares “Somehow I feel different. I am losing control”. She doesn’t un­derstand this new person who be­haves this way. She says “I have many friends who have moved to assisted living” as she thinks about her “new self”. She also remembers that her mother had home care the last few months of her life and spent the last week in a nursing home.

My friend shares that she doesn’t know where to start to understand this “new self”. She wants to stay in her own home, but her doctor is concerned about her weight and her diabetes be­cause of her poor diet. She asks me if I can help her analyze her “new self”.

I am excited at the oppor­tunity as so many elders refuse to acknowledge their “new self”. Rather they deny their new status and yearn to keep the “old self” who is unable to manage in this age of computers, fast paced cars, and advances in health care delivery that require an involved patient in care delivery, rather than a physician driven care model. The “old self” is not only in conflict with the “new self”, but often in a tense relationship with family and friends who are eager to help the “new self”, but find resistance from the “old self”.

My friend and I start by reviewing the basics of a success­ful “new self”. The “new self” needs both a medical and finan­cial power of attorney, complete with discussions about prefer­ences for care when the “new self” is unable to make decisions about quality of life. The “new self” also needs to be protected financially to ensure her money is managed properly. We choose a power of attorney and complete the necessary paperwork.

Next we talk about health insurance. We review her Medi­care coverage and determine the limited coverage through her supplemental. We talk about eligibility for Medicaid and veter­ans benefits. We also talk briefly about life insurance, her lack of a will, burial plans, and who should receive her belongings upon her death.

Now we are ready for the hard discussion. My friend’s “new self” needs home care or assisted living. Her “old self” wants everything to stay the same. My professional opinion tells me we need to make a plan for her “new self”. Despite her fears, we continue the conversa­tions as she trusts my opinion.

We start with the Colorado Senior Resource Guidebook by review­ing the Checklists for Home Care and Assisted Living. We identify advantages and disadvantages of the services we need to purchase if she stays in her own home as well as those she needs if she moves to assisted living.

We proceed cautiously and do some comparison shopping about the needs for her “new self”. Finally we make a plan to hire home care. Her power of attorney hires a home care agency that she found in the Guidebook and will re-evaluate in six months if her needs are being met.

My friend is starting to under­stand her “new self” and adjust to her new reality. It is not easy as she has known the “old self” for more than 80 years. She has known her “new self” for less than a year. She shares with me the conflicts between the “old self” and the “new self” on a regular basis. We expect those conflicts to continue for a long time.

For a complimentary copy of the Colorado Senior Resource Guidebook, contact your local library. Copies can be mailed by sending $9 postage and handling to CGS, 3006 East Colfax Avenue, Denver CO 80206 or come by the office for a free copy. Call 303-333-3482 for more information.


Eileen Doherty, MS is the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society since 1982. She has almost 40 years of experience in education and training, advocacy, clinical practice, and research in the field of gerontology. She is an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State University teaching non-profit management. She can be reached at 303-333-3482 or at doherty001@att.net.

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