Dear Bad Guy
I keep telling my mother that it is time to move. She lives in the house that I grew up in, with two floors and a staircase. She continues to go down the basement stairs to the laundry. I am afraid that one of these days she will fall and then what? How can I get her to see that it just isn’t safe anymore and that it really isn’t a choice. I can’t be the only son that thinks this way. My sister agrees but she doesn’t want to be “the bad guy.”
Dear Bad Guy,
Let’s start with the fact that you are not being a bad guy. You are being a son who is looking out for his mother’s best interests. It may be that if you could adjust your approach with her, you might find that she will be more open to hearing your thoughts. From your perspective, It may look like your mother is making bad decisions. That may or may not be the case. But as long as she has the cognitive capacity to understand her situation and has knowledge of the options for consideration, she holds the right to make whatever decisions she deems appropriate. That statement is a strong one and can often be maddening for adult children, other family or friends. What can anyone do in this circumstance?
Backing off is a wise step while simultaneously consulting with an aging expert. You are going to benefit from having some air-time with another person who can take what you are saying, re-package it into other words, and make concrete suggestions as to how you and/or another person could re-approach. The approach must always be from under not at. What is the difference? At is when an adult child points out to their parent all of the things that they really can’t do anymore, rather than starting from a position of strength by pointing out all that their parent does so well. Coming at is the experience the parent has, even though the adult child may feel that they are just having a benign discussion with their parent. More often than not, the parent will say that their son or daughter came and told them to do x,y, or z, despite the son’s or daughter’s good intentions. It’s understandable, but...a new style may get you further.
How about suggesting to your parent the extent to which you have respected their ability to make decisions throughout the years and that you would like to have them assist you? Maybe they could help you to be less concerned or worried about them. Possibly, by talking about what skills they have utilized throughout life, they could work with you to problem-solve some of the challenges you are now facing with their aging as well as yours. Wow! Just imagine! See the difference? Hear the difference?
If all goes well, you will find yourselves on a level playing field. That’s where you need to be to move forward with pragmatic discussions and advance planning. It will be time for you and your parent to be given realistic options for consideration and discussion. Maybe remaining at home, with structural modifications made, and potentially in-home supports, could make the necessary difference. Maybe moving elsewhere for greater socialization would be optimal. None of us knows what is the best way forward until we can have genuine conversations that involve our vulnerabilities and our strengths. We all have made countless plans in our lives....why not continue to do so in our older years?