de·ni·al | di-ˈnī(-ə)l
the denial of privileges
2 a (1): refusal to admit the truth or reality of something (such as a statement or charge)// their denial of the divine right of kings
(2): assertion that an allegation is false// her denial that she was involved
b: refusal to acknowledge a person or a thing
At times, a person just has to start with Merriam-Webster to insure we are all on the same page. Because when we are deep into the art of practicing denial, not only are we not on the same page; we aren’t even reading the same book.
Individuals, families and even entire societies can be in denial over a myriad of things. People may be in denial about their unhealthy their lifestyle; they don’t see that it is slowly killing them. Societies may be in denial regarding the impact of laws or social norms on its citizens. And families? Well this is my specialty…very few families come to us without at least a little bit of denial.
“Mom does have some memory problems, but she’s fine to drive and live on her own,” said after mom had her phone disconnected for not paying the bill and got lost in her own neighborhood.
“Dad is fine to continue to live in his own home and manage his diabetes,” said after dad has had three toes amputated and a non-healing foot ulcer. Never mind that the only shower is in the basement and the bedroom is on the second floor.
Okay, so those were examples of a great deal of denial. But even with those kind of things going on, which to most of us seem like obvious indications for needing help, think about the kind of denial that plagues things that might appear smaller or less dangerous.
I like the term “sand-dwellers”. Unfortunately, the idea of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand is just a myth. But nevertheless, this image fits my idea of denial, so just go with me, if you will. When we as adult children or caregivers feel overwhelmed with the idea that perhaps our parents are not doing as well as they once were, it brings about a host of uncomfortable feelings. It’s hard! We don’t want this to be happening. Never mind the fact that we have careers, children, grandchildren and a host of other responsibilities. It’s not convenient, nor is it fun to think about our elders struggling.
But if today things are going ‘okay’ and there is no obvious crisis, then ‘poof’. There into the sand went our heads. We justify it by telling ourselves that it’s really not that bad. They’re fine!!! And perhaps they are….today. But what about tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that? If you continue to choose to be a sand-dweller, you will, by default, choose consequences that you do not intend nor want.
Waiting until they fall down the stairs or until they have a car accident or wonder out into the cold are just a few of those unintended consequences. Now you do have a crisis. It is more difficult to make good decisions during a crisis and our options may be severely limited due to the emergent nature of the situation.
I believe that many people in denial are at least there partially because coming up with a plan and then executing it is too overwhelming. They have no idea where to start or how to implement it; let alone how to get dad or mom to go along with it. Trust me, I get that. And I could not be writing about denial if I had not spent some time there myself. So count me among the sand-dwellers.
Professional services like Oasis Senior Advisors can minimize the overwhelming feelings that caregiving can produce. We will help you develop a plan; one that not only keeps your loved one safe, socially engaged and enjoying life, but will also give you much needed peace of mind and perhaps even a better night’s sleep.
Author: Beth Friesen