Mark Harvey — If you are responsible for an elder, learn about services, visit the pros


Last week, while I was deep in the midst of whatever it was that I was deep in the midst of, I made the observations that “…there is no substitute for going to the ‘pro’s’ who deal with your particular concerns all day, every day to get the real scoop!” Oh, I know! I was going on about cool gadgets that could make our lives a little easier, then took the concept a bit further to “universal design,” etc, so referenced “going to the pro’s!” Good idea, Mark!

Well, it is a good idea: Once you know what you’re looking for, more-or-less, it does make sense to get with folks who specialize in that particular thing/service/facility/subject – once you know what you’re looking for. Folks like me are “generalists,” more-or-less: Folks like me need to help folks like you understand what’s out there and why you care (if you do) then, if applicable and relevant, you can “go to the pros” to get “it” done your way – More-or-less.

OK, good. But have you noticed that there seem to be more and more…pros? The whole world finally caught up with the rest of us and figured out that there are more and more of “us” on a daily basis – Elders and/or aging Boomers and/or folks who are old enough to know better and young enough to begin to care. And when there are a lot of people who are trying to deal with a lot of concerns in a world that was more-than-a-bit confusing in the first place (“Aging in America”), what do you get?

Right! Lots of people who will be happy to help you do it for money!

Everywhere, if you start paying attention! People like me and financial people holding seminars and “care managers” and “coaches” and “downsizers” and “senior specialists” and…Services that will help you find the “…perfect place for Mom…” or a pre-vetted plumber or just the right ramp or a will by email! Amazing technology that keeps an eye on Dad, while you keep an eye on the technology!

So…who keeps an eye on you?

Attorneys and planners and counselors, oh my! Package deals! Help sell a place, help buy a place, help sort the stuff, move the stuff or trash the stuff – or just be able to afford to change nothing! Just call…us!

Wow! It’s enough to make your head spin, if it wasn’t spinning already from just trying to figure out “aging in America!” I didn’t even know that I NEEDED all these people!

Maybe you don’t.

Like all the other hype that surrounds us on a moment-to-moment basis, like politics or toilet paper, sometimes we have to just turn it off, sit down and think for a minute: “Do I really need that?” Do I really want that?” Do I even really know what that even is?”

There ya go – just think, for a minute; now, are all these people trying to scam you? No! I’m a big (well, medium-sized) proponent of “care managers,” particularly when long-distance caregiving is involved. I’ve seen “coaches” help folks successfully work through some pretty tough dilemmas and I’ve seen “downsizers” and “anti-clutter” folks be God-sends! You name it, and I’ve seen it succeed and probably referred people to it.

You name it, and I’ve seen it fail miserably, or even “exploit” people – not rising to the level of “fraud” or “scam,” but certainly selling something that someone didn’t want or need, or didn’t even know they were buying. You name it, and I’ve seen it go both ways, and probably up, down and sideways.

So, what do we do? Throw up our hands and give up? Wait a minute:

What did we think? Did we think that just because we could sport a few gray hairs or walk with a few aches and pains or remember black-and-white TV, that everybody was going to start being nice to us? Or absolutely honest? Or never take advantage of us? Or only sell us things we genuinely needed and could afford? Really?

Did we think that everyone who had figured out how to be polite and gracious, seemed to understand us and could use words that we relate to and understand was always acting 100 percent in our best interests? We did?

Did we think that everyone who seemed to more about something than we did was a “pro?”

Did we really think we were going to get something for nothing? Really? Please!

The fact is, absolutely nothing has changed, except, maybe, that we’re a little older and the hype is a little older; yup, we’re a little older – are we a little wiser? It is now what it’s always been: We have to listen and think and do homework and check and verify and be responsible consumers – just like we always have! References, references, references!

Look, if you don’t think you “need” something, there are only two possibilities: (1) You honestly didn’t know that it even existed or what it could do, so you go do some homework, ask around, etc. and learn about it, or (2) you don’t need it. Period.

There is no “right way” to do “aging” – There is no recipe and no pre-determined path. There are things we need to learn, sure – I go on about it all the time! – But there is no definitive “right way,” just like there was no “right way” to do the rest of your life up to now. We still have to think, we still have to make judgments and decisions and we still have to take responsibility for ourselves – pretty much, most of the time, more-or-less.

So, Yes! Learn about these new services and professionals and ideas and products and packages and stuff! The fact that something is “new” doesn’t make it bad! It also doesn’t make it good.

And there are very few holidays from personal responsibility – more-or-less.

Mark Harvey is the director of Senior Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at harvemb@dshs.wa.gov or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.