Saturday 24 September 2022

The Perfect Fake Independence

 The other day I was browsing facebook posts in an online caregiver support group when I read, 

"My mother was living the perfect life of fake independence when she fell and broke her hip. Before yesterday, she lived in an apartment that adjoins our house. I cooked all her meals and checked on her multiple times every day, just dropping in for "chats" or to deliver folded laundry." 

The idea of fake independence really got me thinking. Isn't this what we all try to achieve? Propping up the dignity of our loved ones, hiding their dependency needs behind closed doors, pretending that they're fine, just fine. 

I remember a conversation with a girlfriend a long time ago that went like this: "I know exactly how to keep my husband "Henri" (not his real name) happy. I plant a seed in a pot of earth and place it on the window sill. Every day I water the little pot and make sure it has plenty of sunshine. One day, the plant is grown and a flower blooms. Come here, Henri, I say! Come and look at what YOU have DONE!" We laughed so hard and I knew exactly what she meant. 

Doing the work of keeping the family well even as the needs of a loved one's age, disability or illness progress is invisible work. Part of the job is making sure that it seems easy and no trouble at all to meet everyone's needs. Even better than that is to prop up the fiction that THEY are in fact doing these tasks themselves. But one day, the smoke and mirrors will evaporate when a hip is broken or when a caregiver becomes ill or incapacitated him/herself. This is a terrible moment. 

Is it a good thing to create perfect fake independence for someone who is frail or ill? I don't know. Maybe it's what some people want but I think if my husband or my daughter was helping me get through the day, I would want a clear eyed view of who is doing what. I would want to thank them. And I would want to fold the laundry myself, if I could. 


Nataly Sich said...

You did a beautiful thing. There is nothing fake about giving someone respect and dignity. The goal is not to do everything for them, but to give them the capability to do the things they are still able to do. That feeling of independence is priceless and what keeps them feeling alive and relevant.

Unprepared Caregiver said...

Such a powerful post Donna. I love this line, "But one day, the smoke and mirrors will evaporate when a hip is broken or when a caregiver becomes ill or incapacitated him/herself. This is a terrible moment." You are so right--propping up this fiction of independence fits so nicely in the story we are encouraged to tell about ourselves and our experiences-I can control my own destiny. At every turn, we're encouraged to carry this mindset with us. But like you eloquently write, this belief, is so counter-intuitive to caring for someone we love, over time. Thank you for bringing this belief (and its consequences) into the spotlight.

Anonymous said...

I’m with you on the desire for a clear-eyed view, an opportunity to express gratitude and the chance to fold the laundry.💚