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Ask Jennifer: Week ending 8/17

Posted at: 07/18/2008 3:32 PM
Updated at: 08/05/2014 7:24 AM

SON WANTS MOTHER TO STOP “LIVING”

Dear Jennifer,


My father died last month. He watched out for my mother. She didn’t drive, he did. He took her everywhere she needed to go. He took care of the yard and easy fix-up jobs at the house. Now my mother thinks she can do it all herself. She’s 82! She won’t listen to me. She’s always had a license and she’s started driving. I’m awake at nights worrying about that one. And she’s go up and down the cellar and attic stairs. She’s going to fall, I just know it. I call her twice a day and if she doesn’t pick up, I’m a wreck. If she doesn’t pick up the phone on the next try, I’m in my car rushing over there. I’m sure I’m going to find her out flat at the bottom of the steps one day. Yesterday, she was outside mowing the lawn! She’s got to stop all this. I’ve told her to move to one of those senior places. She’d like it there and she wouldn’t have to worry about stairs or driving or a lawn. And she likes people. But no. She won’t hear of it. She says she’s going to get a dog to keep her company! She’s stopped listening to my suggestions all together and said she’ll do whatever she wants.  Could a lawyer help me? Or her doctor? Or you? She’s got to start listening to reason.

Sincerely,
Sherry

Dear Sherry,

If you are worried based on her age alone, stop.  I don’t know your mom’s capabilities, but it sounds like she’s doing pretty well for herself. If she can start a mower and push it around at 82 years old, she’s great. You didn’t mention that she has cognitive issues, so I am guessing there aren’t any concerns there. If your mom has a limiting condition such as serious losses of vision or mobility, or if she has a health situation that precludes her from driving (like a seizure disorder) then you’ve got a case for some changes.

From your letter alone, it sounds like you have lost your dad (I’m so sorry) and now you worry you will lose your mom too. This is a natural response shared by many.

If your mom is driving safely, if she is physically capable of climbing stairs, and if she is managing fairly well, then let her got on with living her life. She sounds spirited and independent. Good for her.
You, on the other hand, sound very anxious. I recommend the following:

1. Pay for an emergency response button for your mom to wear. When she pushes the button, she gets an emergency response and you’ll get called if you arrange it. This makes sense for anyone her age.
2. Talk to your doctor about your anxieties.
3. Then talk to your mom about your worries. Not about the things she’s doing that worry you, but about your worries related to the recent loss of your dad. Keep in mind that your mom is embracing her new life. She lost her husband, she doesn’t want to lose her independence too.
4. If you think your mom is truly imminently at risk, call our office and we’ll do an assessment.

Warmly,
Jennifer