What can you rearrange for your aging parents?

Yesterday I had coffee with my old friend, Georgette. She was telling me a story about the work someone had done in a part of Africa. This person had noticed that women weren’t getting good medical care, and he tried to figure out why.

It turned out the women spent most of their time walking back and forth to a source of clean water for their families.

(Take just a moment to imagine having to walk several miles to get water for drinking and cooking: if that makes you freak out a little bit, go make a donation at http://www.charitywater.org/, a very cool organization working to bring clean water to the ONE BILLION people who don’t have regular access to it…)

The women didn’t have time to go to the doctor, and the other problem was that the doctors were mostly male. The women were embarrassed to go to the male doctors, and their husbands got suspicious, so the women just didn’t get medical care. Even if they did, the pharmacy was somewhere else, so they didn’t have time to walk to get their medicines.

This person my friend was talking about tried something new. He moved the clinics and the pharmacies. Where did he put them?

Right by the water.

Brilliant, right? Now when the women make their daily trek for water, they can have their needed medical appointments without their husbands even needing to know about it. The clinics are staffed with female doctors. And the pharmacies are right next door.

The outcomes from this simple change are increased maternal health, better outcomes for babies, and economic benefits from having healthier women in the population.

But what has this got to do with you and you aging parents?

I want to encourage you to see if you can find a way to “move the clinic” in your parents lives. Next time you visit, look for something small that is making life harder for them. It might be something that worked fine when they were younger, but no longer makes sense. Or it could be something that’s been wrong all along, but no one has noticed it yet.

The problems in our lives are not always obvious, and they don’t always get fixed. Sometimes they seem like intractable problems, such as the pre-existing problem with medical care for those women in Africa.

I also encourage you to look for the really big problems. Sometimes these are just as hard to spot. But think of the difference you could make if you can spot and remove a problem that’s going to plague your parents for the next 10-20 years.

Have you found things like this in your parents’ lives? How did you fix it? Please share your story in the comments.

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