I Read This Book

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I Read This Book

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book-shelf-349934_640I've been meaning to post something about this book I read, called How To Say It To Seniors by David Solie. I ran across it in the psychology section when I was browsing aimlessly at the library one day. It didn't have a very promising title, but it was the only book I saw at that time that looked like it had anything to say to me personally. I flipped through a few pages and checked it out. It was really worth reading.

Mr. Solie is a physician's assistant who conducts medical interviews with life insurance policy holders - or buyers - to determine their risk of death. He has a natural sympathy for his older clients, it seems, and learned a lot by observing their communication patterns - things that would frustrate some of his colleagues or, even more so, the clients' children. He writes to my generation about my parents' generation and tries to show how our two generations have very different developmental agendas. He talks about how we the middle-aged are compelled to do and make. We have schedules and we keep things MOVING ALONG. We are expressing generativity through our work and family relationships.

But the older generation is mostly finished with doing and making, and what they have to do instead is review their lives and decide on the meaning they will ascribe to the things that happened and the things they did. When elders tell the same stories over and over, he says, it's because they are working through the memories and seeking their meaning. We can be "legacy coaches" for our elders by listening to their stories, encouraging elaboration, and asking the types of questions that might lead them to a deeper understanding: why do you think he reacted that way? why is this story important to you? etc.

Besides this task of life-review, elders also have to cope with the loss of control over more and more aspects of their lives. Mr. Solie advises his readers not to keep pushing when the elder pushes back but to try a different approach that acknowledges the elder person's control of the situation. He recommends using language that acknowledges control, like, "When you decide what you want to do about selling the house, let me know and I will help you get the process going."

The book made me think about so many things. Unfortunately, he makes no reference whatsoever to dementia - except to say that repetition of stories is not necessarily a sign of it. So in some ways the book has limited application to my current situation. But when I was reading it, I was filled with a fresh sympathy for the older people in my life, and I feel like I've been able to interact with Mom better by being a better listener to her stories of her past and asking more questions. She may outlive her ability to make meaning out of her life experiences, but that doesn't negate her need to be doing it right now and only makes her legacy more precious to me and my son.

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EllysGdaughter

Hmm, that book really does sound interesting! I will have to look it up! Thank you!

LilMagill

That's so sweet, Lillie. :-) If you read it, I hope you like it as much as I did! It's kind of repetitive, but it's a good message.

Lillie Fuller

Thank you so much for sharing that with me. Sounds like something for me to read! I appreciate you!