When first learning how to drive, my drivers-training instructor would play a game with
me during my time behind the wheel. He called it the “What if” game and during my turn
to drive he would ask if I was ready to play? Of course, I had no choice; if I wanted to
graduate I had to play along.
“What would you do if that driver in front of you suddenly slammed on his brakes?” he
would ask. I had to respond as quickly as I could with what I thought was the proper
action necessary in order to avoid an accident.
He would then fire again, “What would you do if that driver coming down the street on
your left suddenly swerved out of his lane and into yours?”
Again, “What would you do if you saw a car traveling down this upcoming cross-street
and the driver wasn’t slowing down for the red light?”
I think you get the picture; he was trying to train me to get ready for the unexpected. He
was teaching me that driving isn’t just about being a good driver when things are perfect
but more about being prepared and how to react when conditions or drivers around me
were acting less than ideal.
Likely you can relate to a similar lesson in your life when you learned the value of being
prepared for the unknown. In fact, it’s this very same lesson that we seek to drum into our
children’s heads with catchy little phrases like ‘saving for a rainy day’ and ‘look before
you leap’. Were not trying to teach lessons about raining and leaping but rather about
If being prepared is so important then why is it that so many adult children of seniors have
decided to forego the sage advice that their parents and life has taught them and instead
take the approach of the wacky ostrich and stick their head in the proverbial sand?
The story usually goes something like this…Mom is 89 and has been rushed to the
hospital after being found by neighbors sprawled out on the floor, in her home where she
lives all by herself. She has fallen, broken a hip and now must suffer through painful
surgery, rehab and all the uncertainty the recuperation process throws at you. This is a
difficult journey for those that are young but the complexity multiplies with age.
As the family gathers to discuss next steps the question invariably comes up as to how
long will this recuperation process take before mom can return home? And when will life
for her return to normal?
Sadly, this is the part of the story where the earlier mentioned “What if” game should have
been played years prior. It wasn’t this recent fall that should have gotten the family’s
attention but all of the prior events over the past many years that should’ve provided the
necessary clues. The signs were there but everyone chose to ignore them because doing
nothing is a whole lot easier than arguing with mom. Letting mom live alone, even
though it’s unsafe, somehow seems better than creating any more family drama. Try to
tell any outside observer that this doesn’t sound a bit like our friend the ostrich.
During our formative years we should have learned those lessons about being prepared
and to expect the unexpected. Don’t let those lessons go to waste, especially now, when it
involves those very same people who likely taught those lessons to us.
When it comes to our aging loved ones we all need to do a better job of being prepared,
and thinking of the what ifs. Let this be the new normal, where we’ve taken the time to
understand that the risk of doing nothing has a very significant price tag and one we’re no
longer willing to pay.
Kevin and Cilla Buck own and operate CarePatrol of Northeast Ohio, a Free senior placement service
that assists families in finding the right assisted-living community. They can be contacted at
firstname.lastname@example.org or like them on Facebook at CarePatrol of Northeast Ohio.