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10/29/2010 11:50:00 AM
'It's Between You and Me' is a contract between seniors and adult children

Joyce Laabs
Features Editor

"It's Between You and Me," by Ali Davidson (Brilliant Inventures LLC), is a book that every senior and their adult children should read.

It concerns a conversation about the future that every family should have. And, while difficult, it will lead to a stronger relationship between the adult children and their parents.

Davidson, who owned an in-home care agency for nine years and worked as a counselor in private practice for more than 12 years, learned first hand just how important this conversation is.

It was in September 1999 when she heard the following had occurred that spurred her to write the book.

"I'm going home," she (Grandma) said firmly to the family gathered around her.

"Nothing you can stay will stop me. I've called the airlines and they will help me make the trip. I've called the place in Cyprus where the nuns take care of the old people and they have a room for me. I will sell my cemetery plot before I go so that I will have the money. I'm going to the place where I was born, to be buried by my mother and father."

The family was stunned. Some thought the idea would pass, other members thought it might help her feel alive again.

What Grandma wanted was a life.

She continued: "I don't want to wait till I am so weak that I can't make the trip. I don't want to end up like these old people here, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, waiting to die. I feel like I've lost my personality. I don't know who I am anymore. I am so dependent on all of you for everything - just like a child. I'm not nine years old, I'm 93!

"I want to make my own decisions, cook my own food and speak with people who know my language. You are all doing well, I don't have to worry about you anymore. So I am going. You can't change my mind.

"And one more thing, I am going alone."

This tale hit home with Davidson - who immediately thought of her own grandmother, Yiayia.

"My grandmother felt the same way. She said she was tired of depending on others. She didn't like where she was living, the people were snobs, the food was terrible, and no one could play poker. It was an "assisted living" apartment complex and it was very expensive. Yiayia didn't feel good about my mother paying to that place, but here measly $425 a month Social Security sure couldn't pay the bill.

"Everything from getting her medication, to helping her bathe, cost extra. It was a beautiful shell with no soul. And she didn't want to die in there."

Then Yiayia tried to commit suicide.

"She had taken sleeping pills after writing a letter to my mom and sealing it in an envelope on which she had written "no machines."

"My sister found her the next morning-unconscious."

What to do.

"Do you honor her wishes and let her sleep to her death? Do you revive her at all costs and bring her back to a life that is painful, lonely, and without a future?

They called the doctor, who had them call the paramedics - she was taken to the hospital and given antidotes to the sleeping pills.

"When she came to, her first words were 'Why did you do this to me?'

"I decided to create this guidebook to assist families early on in the aging process to make decisions together. I have witnessed first-hand the ease with which people transition through the aging process when a formal plan was put in place long before the crisis occurred.

"Many have written their wills and advance directives, both of which have to do with end-of-life decisions and the disbursement of property. But most people do not have a plan in which they direct and manage their own care during their aging years through a contract and agreement."

Davidson said that it is never too late to create a plan - that the discussions between parent and child may be painful and difficult - but that it will allow the parents' wishes to be honored as they age.

If you have no children, Davidson suggests a niece or nephew, or the adult child of a close friend - anyone you can trust to make sure the plan you have made is implemented.

"When you complete the discussions and have created the plan you will have a deeper understanding of the aging process - an honest assessment of the needs and desires of both the senior and adult children - a way to heal past hurts and personal barriers - an awareness of available resources - a personal plan of action that will ensure the lifestyle you want as you age - and a commitment from each other to see the plan through.

"Hard as it is, we must face reality, and then work together to face future issues. Issues such as limited mobility, limited mental capacity and isolation.

"The hardest thing about aging is letting go of control while still maintaining independence."

This book will take you step-by-step and Davidson is available to readers through her website: www.itsbetween youandme.com.

The 150-page softcover book is a must read for all those looking to the future of themselves and their family.

I will certainly use it as I plan for my own "old age."

Editor's Note: Yiayia did go to Cyprus and she did go by herself. It turned out to be a trip that gave her back her sense of power as she was making her own decisions. After six months she came home traveling with Davidson's mother - and spent the last two years of her life living with her. That was her wish - to be surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Joyce may be reached at features@lakelandtimes.com.

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