I recently found myself in the middle of a what was supposed to be a discussion between parents and adult children about increasing services in the home or moving to an assisted living. Discussion is defined as, “ the action or process of talking about something typically in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas”.
This was not a discussion but rather another battle in the war between the generations. On one side, the aging frail parents who under no circumstances would entertain moving from their home. They insisted they were able to handle anything and had ample support.
The adult children expressed their concern for their parents safety. They worried about falls and if activities of daily living were being taken care of. They were noticing a decline and some forgetfulness. As an observer, I could see their frustration and pain.
I have witnessed this interaction with many families. As my husband says, he could write the script from going through it with his mother. Part of the problem is as long as the parents are mentally competent, there isn’t much family members can do except continually bring up the topic and be vigilant.
Unfortunately, you can talk until you are blue in the face and still not get anywhere. A common refrain, which many of you have heard is, “The only way I am leaving my house is in a box.” It generally takes a crisis or catastrophic event to make a change.
That is what occurred with my mother-in-law. For years, we had all tried to get her to move. Her cognitive decline was becoming more apparent. Her doctor, a gerontologist, felt she was still competent enough but could use some assistance at home, much to the families frustration. The four children did everything they could from visiting regularly, calling daily and continuing to discuss moving.
And then it happened. A call from a neighbor, saying no one had seen her for two days and they had called the police. My mother-in-law had fallen and was unable to get to a phone or her lifeline button (on her dresser instead of her wrist) for two days.
She never returned home and lives in a secure unit of an assisted living facility. It was heartbreaking for the family. There are no clear answers to getting a parent to understand the risks of being alone. The perceived loss of independence is overwhelming and frightening.
Tomorrow’s blog: Tips on talking to your parents about staying safe in the home or moving to assisted living.