July 28th, 2010 at 10:12 am
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Serenity in Aging

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

Personality-wise, some caregivers and their elders are extroverts or introverts. More commonly, some individuals display a blend of each style. As in any relationship, individual personalities and styles come into play. Caregiving is no different.

My mother has always been more of an extrovert whereas I am the quintessential introvert. In some ways, Mom’s outreach to others has shifted. She is less inclined these days to engage in telephone conversations, for example, even when I may use speakerphone and conversational prompts to encourage her participation.

There was a time where she would be on a mission to answer incoming calls. She also enjoyed conversations with her generational contemporaries and others. Partly due to joint stiffness and resulting mobility impairment, Mom simply cannot answer a ringing telephone before the caller gives up or the answering machine kicks in – whichever comes first.

I chuckled when, right after she chose to wash, dry, and put away dishes in the kitchen one day, Mom announced that she didn’t want to have to answer a single incoming telephone call. Her comment came out of the blue. I have never been in habit of handing-off the telephone to anyone else. It’s a golden rule thing for me when it comes to telephone calls.

Still, I wonder whether this is the same mother who always dragged me kicking and screaming to speak to all callers, including all relatives and her friends? When I worked full-time and fulfilled part-time caregiving responsibilities, if Mom was on the phone when I walked inside she enthusiastically declared, “Isabel is just walking inside and she’s pulling the telephone away from me.” Not!

These days, not unlike some older adults, Mom is in a less-is-more stage. It’s similar to the way one of my generational peers has described his (and my) advancing years. “We’re entering the serene stages of our lives.” If Mom were to take a Myers-Briggs personality style test these days, I wonder if her aging profile might be the big ‘I,’ as in Introvert? Maybe, maybe not. Thankfully, Mom still enjoys our informal conversations including our shared running cable news analyses, end of day tidbits and laughter, and family moments in the kitchen while I prepare our meals.

Less-is-more is sometimes discouraging to some caregivers who expect greater activity and communication involvement from their elders. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder and determined by an elder’s personality.

I see greater serenity of spirit in Mom.

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