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Sat Feb 18, 2017, 01:25 PM

Supporting Elder Aspies Our elderly need us, not tomorrow, but today.

The number of elderly Aspies seeking an Asperger syndrome diagnosis is minimal. Yet I can safely assume every one of us can identify someone in our lives beyond retirementage who fits the Aspie profile. As we impatiently wait for the community to spread its protective wings over Aspies of all ages, we individuals need to act now to deliver solace to our exceptional elders. I was lucky to have been raised by an Aspie father and as he grew older, I experienced his AS related challenges and needs, up close and personal. I noticed that as he got older, he became more effected by AS, and not always in a happy way. It pained me to see my dad struggle with things he used to be able to manage. His mind didnít dim, but his AS shinned. He started talking more and more about train schedules. He got more nervous when his routine was interfered with. And he became more adverse to human contact beyond our tiny immediate family. If I had sought their advice, aging experts might have told me this is the way many elderly go, but I saw a discreet difference between my father and other people his age. My father wasnít becoming a typical older person who needed care and comfort. He was returning to his comfort zone; his Aspie roots.

In a loving desire to help him figure things out, I first turned to academic research on aging and AS. Sadly, there isnít much to find. I talked to Dad about this and together we carried on a gentle dialogue about what itís like to get older when you have a neurobiological difference. None of the suggestions below have been scientifically measured, but they are my best bet on how to help Aspie elders. I hope everyone who reads them, takes them and spins them off into dozens and dozens of other supports.

It is essential police, firefighters, emergency technicians, hospital staff, doctors, all caregivers and a neighbor or two know about AS and how it effects your elderly Aspie. When you provide information that can help others understand the unique nature of the Aspie, they can then try to adapt their communications styles to better match the Aspieís. The information provided should range from the very basics such as what kinds of touch the Aspie will willingly accept to the big stuff such as an explanation of the literal mindedness of the Aspie and a disclosure about how difficult it is for the Aspie to show emotions or respond in empathetic ways to others. The main idea is to make sure you help form a community in which the Aspie remains safe, calm and happy while avoiding undue criticism, mixed messages, or unfriendly approaches.

Make it a point to check in on your Aspieís caregivers or neighbors every now and then. Just as you may have had to bribe a bully to be kind to an Aspie child, do what you can to encourage people around your Aspie elder to be nice. I brought treats and holiday gifts to two of my fatherís neighbors and made sure my family was always smiling and friendly when we ran into one another. I asked the neighbors to please keep an eye on my father for me, and in exchange I shared not only the gifts and heartfelt thanks, but also information and assistance I had to help them with whatever need they had. In no time at all, the neighbors were clearing my fatherís sidewalk from snow and calling me when they hadnít seen him outside after a few days.



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