They Don’t Want to be Saved

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel pity.

When you know they don’t want help, won’t accept it, even resent it, but all you can see is how much better their life could be if only ______. For whatever reason you know they need saving, but they don’t want to be saved.  

Compassion may be all you can truly give, but stepping back and leaving them alone in their naivety is easier said than done, especially when it comes to someone you love.

In the last year my grandmother started showing signs of serious memory issues. Her behavior became erratic, and concerning enough that my parents insisted it was no longer safe for her to live alone in her house across the country. Her neighbors had been worried for a long time, and had begun calling my parents in alarm. My grandma didn’t remember how to lock her door, would get lost walking back from the store three blocks from her house, stopped washing her hair, didn’t think it was important to have a working telephone, didn’t believe she had to pay her bills because she disagreed with policies, etc. She fell in her house several months ago and told my mother about it, but now does not remember it happening at all and insists she has always been perfectly safe in her own home. Based on all that I had heard and seen, I agree with my parents’ decision to bring her home with them.

But the truly heartbreaking thing is that my grandmother – who has lived independently for a decade since her husband passed – does not believe us. She doesn’t believe anything has changed and thinks she’s completely fine. She doesn’t want to hear it, doesn’t want any change, and doesn’t want to be told she’s wrong. A couple of months ago when my mom went to visit her and they flew back together, my grandma believed she was just coming to visit, despite the fact that my mom had told her repeatedly that this was going to be her home now unless she agreed to have someone come live with her. She doesn’t remember having these conversations.

When I saw her last month for the first time since last Christmas, she told me that my parents had kidnapped her and asked me sincerely to take her to the airport.

It’s incredibly painful to witness. Putting myself in her shoes, of course I can understand her being upset. She feels betrayed, because it seems like her own family is treating her like a child not capable of making her own decisions. Unfortunately in a sense, we are.

But what is the solution here? She refuses to go to a doctor to confirm that she has memory loss or any changes in behavior. She is in denial that the people around her who love her the most are trying to help. As of now, in her mind we are all somehow out to get her.

So we are stuck in this limbo – she is living with my parents, continuously trying to get them to drive her to the airport. But she can’t be alone, six states away – it’s not safe. We are all in agreement that this is the right thing to do, even though it’s painful. My heart hurts for her.

How do we save those who don’t want to be saved?

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