Most of us don’t like to be told what to do, least of all by our own kids.
I understand that. I’m a mom, and believe me, it’s irritating when they act like they know more than me–about everything. I get a lot of eye rolling.
Yes, our children are smart. They know what’s going on, but experience has lot to offer–and book learnin,’ ‘net learnin’ and tv/media learnin’ doesn’t teach you everything you need to know in this world
So I commiserate here, but what if your elder/infirmed parent is being stubborn about not taking their meds, not going to the neurologist for a diagnosis, not giving up driving when they’ve already had a couple of fender benders, or insisting on living on their own–only it’s not on their own–neighbors, friends, church members and you are there all the time and still, you worry about them falling or burning down the house not because you’re paranoid, but because it’s a valid concern.
I know because my mom had Parkinson’s and what I thought was early stages dementia (turned out to be Alzheimer’s) when she was still insisting on living on her own. It took a village to keep my mom going, and I so appreciated everyone’s help, but it was wearing me out to coordinate it all and go over there all the time–and worry about her going to the mailbox and tripping, wearing a long, flouncy house robe (with shaky Parkinson’s tremors) and cooking something that could catch her sleeve on fire. And she was paranoid and believing that every squirrel that traipsed across her roof was a burglar. A call to 911 was a weekly thing.
That was my situation, and while frustrating and worrisome, there are many horror stories of elder situations that have had catastroiphic endings.
So what do you do when you want your parent to feel respected and you really don’t want to take away their independence but you’re worried about them? Let them know you’d like to be their care/decision partner. Hopefully, you can get them to agree to a partnership.
Do what’s right. Stop being a people pleaser. Reach deep inside you and find the resolve to make the tough decisions when you need to.
The title of my book is Mothering Mother, and what it means to be a mother is to do what’s right.
Not what’s popular or what will make someone happy for the moment. The parent or guardian of the situation looks at the bigger picture. Your elder/person who needs care might not want to see themselves as needing this much care, they may disagree with you, but if you know they do need this level of care, they really can’t continue to drive, they aren’t taking their meds, or they are a constant fall hazard, then don’t get into an argument with them, simply make your decision.
Should you leave someone alone if they just want to die in their own house? If they’re cognizant and tell you to leave them the hell alone? If they burn their own house down or die because they didn’t take their meds–but it’s their decision–isn’t that okay?
Good question. Are they really cognizant? Is this a rational decision? Can they just be stubborn to the point of death and should they have that right?
The problem is, they’ll still want you to take them to the doctor, buy their groceries, check in on them, pick up their prescriptions, etc., etc., and at that point, they are involving you–and can you–as their adult child see them live in squalor and do nothing? How far will they let it go? How far will you?
Can you just walk away from seeing your parents and let them die simply because they insist?
Can you “do it their way” and only buy groceries and meds? What happens if they fall? Will they not call the hospital? Not call you?
See, most people say they just want to be left alone, they want it all their way, but then they still want to involve you. They want your care, your input, but all on their terms.
At that point, you do have some say-so. At that point, they are, by default asking for help and intervention.
For example, if your loved one falls, calls 911 and is taken to the hospital, they get there, are admitted, and the doctors see that they have burns on their arms from cooking accidents, a broken ankle that’s swollen and hasn’t healed, they’re emaciated from not eating, and their blood pressure is sky high because they haven’t taken their prescriptions–guess what?
You, their adult child may be receiving a call from DFACS (department of children and family services) and charged with neglect. Not kidding.
But they’re an adult. This is their decision, right? County services would argue that this elder/infirmed person is in not a healthy enough state of mind to make this decision for themselves and that you, their next of kin, are responsible.
That’s what might happen if stubborness goes too far.
I empathize. My idea of how I’d like to spend the last few years of my life is to be the crazy lady in the beach house with lots of cats. I’m serious. I’m fiercely independent. But I realize I’m part of a family, and I can’t have it all my way–not all the way.
This isn’t about who’s in control and who’s not, is someone being respected or taking someone’s independence from them.
This is about safety.
You don’t let your ten-year old drive. You don’t let your six-year old cook without supervision, you don’t let your teen stay out all night. They can pitch a fit, say they hate you, but in the end, you have to stand up, take a deep breath, accept your role and do what’s right.
Being a sandwich generationer shows you the similarities in parenting your children and caring for your seniors, who are not your children, but at some point, you will have to being to partner in their decisions, and eventually, depending on their condition, make decisions for them. It’s a transitiional process.
Loving and respecting your elder/mother/father/grandparent, or anyone who needs care is a state of mind–on both parts.
A message to our elders:
If you want to be treated with respect and dignity, you have to believe that you possess it already. You have to bring it to the table. No one, and no circumstance can take it from you. Driving isn’t the issue, living in your own home isn’t the issue. Accept your place with dignity.
Accept that life changes, that our bodies, all our bodies wear out–and that this is where you are. Your child, your grandchildren will be exactly where you are one day. You are now their teacher. How you choose to embody this role as the wise, loving, peaceful elder is up to you.
I say this in love and with the most respect you can imagine. I had elder parents (54 and 58 when they adopted me). I grew up in a house where senior status was the norm. I greatly respected them. It wasn’t about them knowing everything in the world, but what they did know–about life, marriage, friendships, God, faith, living, they passed onto me. I felt my father’s respect down in his bones. Everyone admired him. Everyone honored his wisdom, most of all me.
Nothing I could have ever had to do for the man–take him to the doctor, sit by his bed all night, help him walk, bathe him (all of which I did), insist he take his meds–nothing, nothing, nothing could have taken one ounce of respect away from him–from us. I adored him. How can you compare no longer being able to drive or manage your checkbook with that?
So, how do you deal with someone who’s being stubborn and they truly need help?
Step into your role as daughter, caregiver, doctor–and own it. This is what you are meant to do.
Speak with authority and insist. There are no other options. This what is to be.
It’s like a colonel dealing with an army platoon. They obey orders. Why? Orders are given with such authority that they’re not seen as optional.
That doesn’t mean to bellow out copious commands and expect everyone to cower.
Choose what’s most vital, make the best decision, and then follow through.
People lose respect and the system breaks down when the person in charge vacsilates and doesn’t follow through.
If your parent really shouldn’t drive any more, then come to that conclusion and insist. Take the keys. If they get more keys made, then move the car, sell the car. If it’s that important, then have the conviction to do what’s right.
If you knew ahead of time that your loved one would be driving the car next week and hit a kid on a bike, what would you do? You’d take the keys and move the car. They could mad at you all they want–pout, not talk to you, threaten to take you out of the will. You wouldn’t care. Your goal would be to save that kid–and to save your parent. You’d do it.
That’s the kind of conviction you have to have.
But you don’t know that will happen? Do you really want to find out?
Yes, get a doctor’s opinon, an opthamologist’s opiniion, stop by the DMV and talk to them, look up the stats on the computer–make a wise, not hasty, nor procrastinated decision. But when you do decide, then stick to your guns. Follow through. Take up the slack. Coordinate care, drive them to the doctor’s–do what you have to do, but don’t doubt yourself.
This isn’t a question of love or respect. This is because of love and respect. Trust yourself. Make the tough decisions after much deliberation. Stick to your guns. Follow through.
The anger, pouting, accusations will eventually subside. Remind them of your love, thank them for all they have taught you and are teaching you. There’s so much for us to learn: how to handle illness, death of a spouse, disappointments, how to retire, how to find peace and purpose in quiet days, how to forgive ourselves, how to laugh and dance when our bodies betray us, and eventually how to die. There’s so much for us to learn, so many questions we have to ask.
For me, I have to reconcile myself to where I am in each phase of my life. Caregiving is a part of life. Being an elder is part of life. I have to accept and own both roles, both places, and I choose to step into each season with dignity, joy, and grace.
What a privileged caregivers/sons/daughters/nieces/nephews have to be around their elders and to glean from their decades of insight.
Our elders are teaching us every day–just as they’ve always done. It’s time for us to listen.