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Understand this

I am forming a new Anti-Understand League to abolish the “I understand” response from caregivers and family members when seeing/hearing frustration from their elder charges. New members are being accepted.

You are eligible for membership if you have ever endured someone saying “I understand” when seeing you:

Frustrated that arthritic fingers won’t fasten those tiny buttons on your shirt;

Trying to respond to “Toss it over here,” and your “toss” has gone to live at another retirement home;

Trying to reach that glass that is “just” on the second shelf, and your “just” has gone to live with your “toss”;

Wince with pain when reaching to tie your shoes;

Trying to pick up what you have dropped — for the third time;

Struggling to read any print smaller than THIS.

The new League’s focus is to eliminate the repetition of the phrase “I understand” from those who want to commiserate with (to them) your seemingly minor, but constant, exhausting, niggling pains that accompany daily existence. We will endeavor to eliminate the repetition of the phrase from anyone younger than 70. The phrase will be replaced by “I’m sorry.” “Can I help?” or “What else would work?”

Our secondary purpose is the promotion of the design and fabrication of a full-body suit to be worn by anyone — doctor, nurse, caregiver, psychologist — who is in training to care for someone in pain. This suit will have needles placed in appropriate places to cause pain when reaching too high/standing too long/bending to pick up something/reaching to switch on the standing lamp. Each student of every discipline will be required to wear this suit during waking/working hours for a minimum of one week.

Removal of the suit will be allowed for sleeping, contrary to the actual patient’s situation, as the trainee needs a clear mind for the day’s lessons. Those caring for folks suffering from the debilitating pain of cancers or extreme physical impairment also are exempt as most of them already have learned they can’t “understand.”

If a young caregiver/friend/family of an older person says they “understand,” remind them kindly that they don’t. They can’t.

It is like saying a 2-year-old can understand algebra. It isn’t a character fault or lack of compassion on the part of the infant or the concerned friend. They “just” haven’t lived long enough.

Mary Louise Lyman lives in Ashland.