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Ask the Expert

Dear Aging Expert,

My mother is a very private and independent woman who still cares for her own household at the age of 88. Recently, she has been falling and has landed in the hospital five times in the last year. She refuses to use a cane or walker, even in the house. She goes out only with me or another family member. She has had some physical therapy, but as soon as it ends, she is back to feeling weak and falling. How can I convince her to use a walker or to accept other services? I am exhausted.

Dear Exhausted,

I wonder what your mother would say if she knew how worried and exhausted you are. Most parents, despite their pride, don’t want to be a “burden” to their children. Very often, parents do not take advice from their kids. Even my own mother, used to remind me that although she wasn’t well that she (not me) was still the mother!

So often the best way to help parents move toward acceptance of a more realistic plan is to have an objective outsider, such as their physician, a care manager or some other “expert” discuss the options for meeting their needs. Not only with the outside professional be able to respect your mother’s privacy and her independence, but will help her to meet her own goals of staying at home and as functional as possible.

The way that you introduce the “expert” can be by speaking with the physician ahead of a visit and expressing your concerns or asking him/her to recommend a geriatric care manager in your area. This way you can say that, “the doctor wants you to meet this individual to assure that you can stay independent and in your own home.” It will then be the job of the care manager to earn your mother’s trust, help her to feel safe in her own home and demonstrate respect for her wishes.

If your mother has always been demanding and you have been at her “beckon call” then you need help for yourself to know where to draw the line and how to offer her alternatives to your caring.

Neither of these options is easy, but both can be done with the help of a professional such as a care manager. You can ask your doctor for a referral.

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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide