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My Mom Teaches Caregiver Lessons Every Day


My mom, Myrna Billian, is almost 101 and she still has a license to drive!

She remains quite proud of her license plate ‘Myrna B’ and if you’ve traveled in her neighborhood in the last few years, chances are you’ve seen her in her convertible—of course, top down. But, before anyone cries foul, let me explain. While legally my mother can drive, she chooses not to.

Choosing what to do is very important for my mother. So are her independence and dignity—two things she cherishes, as she tells everyone who’ll listen, “The old gray mare isn’t what she used to be.”

My mom lives with me now, and every day is a gift. We laugh a lot, but it often kills me when I see her struggling with things that use to be easy. Like putting on a sweater. Or eating.

Recently, she refused my spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, which she’d always loved. I couldn’t understand why. Until, she finally admitted, she could no longer maneuver the fork to twirl the pasta.

A few months ago, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to wear certain favorite shoes.

Until I realized, she could no longer put them on. It was like an epiphany: my beautiful and willful mother was quietly trying to change her habits to maintain her dignity and self-respect.

And I realized, while helping her, I had to be a huge part of allowing that to happen.

My mantra: mom gets to choose!

Does she do less? Sometimes.

Does she resist giving in? Always.

Does she give up entirely? Rarely.

Do we approach life together? You bet!

We shared the decision: it is about quality, rather than quantity, of life. It’s the right decision. For both of us.

If you are taking care of a parent or elderly loved one you can probably understand everything I am saying. You probably have your own stories. Share them with us at Benchmark. Trust me, it feels good to do this together!

Please send me an email.

Until next time,

Susan Wornick

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