Tuesday, April 30, 2013


The families of our Adagio residents have at times deserved negative names like dysfunctional, difficult, loud-and-obnoxious-without-filters, but are you familiar with "neophobic?"

Neo refers to new: "used with many nouns and adjectives to make nouns and adjectives describing things that exist in the present in a slightly different form from the way that they existed in the past."

A shorthand definition is "change."  But our antennae curl like Danish sweet rolls at a hint of needed change. So we will sneak into our discussion with "neo." So chic.

At one time our oldest resident (94 years 2 months) who exhibited increasing weakness, plaintively asked me what was wrong with her. I held her hand and quietly suggested she was getting old, but in answer to her immediate question said she probably was not going to die tonight. To her three children each in their late 60's and 70's, their mother's observable deterioration was unwelcome, required immediate intervention and they even suggested a physical therapist could strengthen her with exercises. They reacted with full blown neophobia. Their insistent demands and hovering attention became upsetting. We needed to include their home health nurse in a discussion based on realistic medical facts.

Other families have visited our home looking at the possible need to move their mother. They were victimized by the prevalent notion that living independently is best. Their mother has been the bulwark for the family...and their tributes go on and on. We can hear that she has been a remarkable woman and her children rise up and call her "blessed." But her strength is failing and they could well be the death of her.

No one lives independently forever without aches and pains and medical intervention. But a few aged folk give the impression that they will be the exception to the rule. Until they wear out. Then a fall, a small stroke (TIA), or pneumonia caused by swallowing and laughing simultaneously signals change. And the weakness catches both the individual and the family by surprise.

Hopefully one of the children is healthy and comprehending enough to serve as DPOA and help their mother transition from independence to accepting care in an assisted living facility like our adult family home. Otherwise we shake our heads as the family in denial stalks back to their car, and we whisper sadly, "neophobia."

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