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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN / The Fake-tionality Conundrum / Editorial List

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Gary Barg

The Fake-tionality Conundrum

This past week was a whirlwind. I spent it with 2,500 of my closest elder advocate friends (okay, I didn’t know all of them, but tried to meet as many as possible) at the 60th Anniversary American Society for Aging Conference. There were two other important events co-located at the ASA conference—the Annual Caregiver Coalition Conference and Mary Furlong’s Boomer Summit. With all three of these events, there was a whole lot of wisdom being shared in just one place.

These conferences offered a great opportunity to learn what is going on in the world regarding everything from financial abuse (a subject in upcoming issues of Today’s Caregiver magazine) and many sessions on caregiving. As this was my 15th time at the ASA events, I already knew that some of the best information was to be gleaned at informal dinners, in hallway conversations, and even meeting with my fellow media professionals in the ASA Press Room. (Thank you, Bob Stein!)

What I didn’t know was that the lessons would come so soon after arriving. The evening I arrived in San Diego, I went to dinner with some of my friends in the aging press (well, we are aging, so you can take that comment any way you want!). Two of my dinner companions were a married couple who shared a story about the goings-on in the community they had just moved into after years of caring for both sets of parents.

One of their new neighbors, Sheila, had recently become a subject of great concern to everyone in the neighborhood as she obviously should not be a) living alone or b) driving anymore. Sheila had lived in the same house for so long that she felt able to drive herself to eat every day at specific local restaurants within a few blocks, but would become confused after the meal and often sit in her booth until closing when she was forced to find her way home. She would not hear of moving from her home, since she had convinced herself that she was quite functional in her environment. This was a thought not shared by any of her concerned neighbors. Often her car would end up on the sidewalk and her mailbox was run over on a regular basis.

Since she would purposefully never use her stove and her house was single story, Sheila was positive that she was safe and sound. At the same time, it was clear to everyone else that as the size of her world was decreasing, the risk she posed to herself and others was increasing. The problem was that no one knew what they could do about it without her consent. Thankfully, once her son became aware of what was going on, he was finally able to convince his mother to move in with him and his family.

Sheila had been living with a level of pseudo-functionality that was an accident waiting to happen for her and a cautionary tale for so many others living in towns and cities around the nation. Sheila’s neighbors were good and caring people, but had no idea of what to do as her condition deteriorated before their eyes until my friends convinced them that Sheila’s son should be alerted to what was happening to their neighbor.

Would you know what to do when someone’s level of functionality in your life started to actually become fake-tionality?

Gary Barg

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