Aging Parents: Forcing Resistant Parents to Do What’s In Their Best Interest

FORCING ELDERS?

Sticky subject requiring careful treatment. As a high school counselor I was no stranger to dealing with sticky subjects that could threaten life and limb. There’s a delicate balance between what we’re professionally mandated by law to do, and concern about maintaining a valued relationship and sense of trust that we’ve worked hard to develop.

Likewise, a delicate balance exists between forcing aging parents to do something for their own good when life and limb are at risk and maintaining a close, loving relationship. Plus–guilt can weigh heavily. Can we force resistant parents to do what’s in their best interest when they’re dead set against it, maintain our relationship, and have no guilt?

WE HAVE NO CHOICE…

  • When elders don’t have “a good head on their shoulders” and their judgment is impaired. It’s painful but we must force them to do what’s in their best interest if there’s a threat to life and limb–their’s or other’s.
  • If our parents’ situation is significantly impacting our physical health–actually we have two choices: Bring in a professional caregiver to help full-time until we’re strong again (and get away for 6-7 days asap–break the stress), or shift responsibility to a care facility. If we’re psychologically worn down, do the above.               —Otherwise google to find family counseling agencies, explain your situation and talk with a social worker–possibly a geriatric social worker. Otherwise we effectively help no one.
  • When parents’ physical/health issues (eg. vision, balance, mobility) require living/driving changes to avoid accidents (risk to life and limb).
  • When awareness of terrible decision-making necessitates forcing parents to turn over financial or other responsibilities to us or someone we choose.

REMEMBER

–The option of non-negotiable “force” is always there–unpleasant as it may be. With stubborn parents we may need to be “flat-footed” and use it.

–When parents are old and there’s no immediate pressure to change a situation, adult children who continue to pressure, find many elderly parents eventually give in.

SOME STRATEGIES TO AVOID FORCE, GET COMPLIANCE

One size doesn’t fit all. If we know ourself, one of the following strategies may feel right.

1. When parents strenuously object, if immediate change isn’t necessary, figure out how to back off gracefully, then tread lightly, slowly and patiently–working towards the original goal in whatever way works.

2. The straight-forward approach presents a narrow range of well-thought-out options (not dictated must-do’s). Parents are involved in decision-making. Begin with objective observationMom you sideswiped a car and had a near-accident this week. Then show understanding: Of course it’s upsetting; what do you see as options?  Next, listen, she may suggest something reasonable you haven’t thought of. If not, give options, making certain to include the most acceptable, realistic one you can think of, like infolving a doctor–Do you need an eye exam? (If the doctor says vision is too ify to drive, s/he can be the “bad guy.”)

3.  The light-hearted approach using humorous exaggeration–I know you wouldn’t mind having a chauffeur-driven limo at your disposal every day and if we win the lottery it’s yours; but in the meantime we need a practical plan. Now go back to #2.

4. The majority wins approach is powerful; basically non-negotiable. Needed: at least 1 sibling, preferably 2 or more. If all–or 2 or the majority–agree on what to do, the message is something like: We’ve thought long and hard about this. There’s no perfect solution, but we are uncomfortable with your continuing to drive. Here are the options….”

5.  The easy-way-out: Have a respected “someone else” deliver the bad news: doctor? insurance company?

It’s difficult to be objective where family is concerned, especially parents. They’re our parents. We have a long history (good and/or not-so-good) together. There may be unresolved emotional baggage that prejudices us thus, compounding the difficulty. Realizing this is an advantage. Another advantage: we usually also know what pushes our parents’ ” buttons” and can consciously avoid it.

There’s one booby-trap: past promises that must be broken. If a promise has been made, never to put a parent in a care facility, for example, the difficulty is compounded. Click Mitzi’s promise–she wanted it shared.

We try to help parents age well. “Angels can do no more.” (Grandma’s saying.)

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

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