Worrying over an aging parent, finding the balance

By Mary Hamway

Finding the balance between worrying about your parent’s care and allowing them to live freely in their own home is not an easy thing to do. We worry that our parent(s) may fall, or that they are not eating well and of course, driving takes this worry to a whole different level. Even though our parent may need more assistance from us, we have not switched places and we are not the parent. Until our parents can no longer live alone or make decisions on their own, they should have a say in where and how they live and we should learn to respect that.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was worried about her mother’s driving. This discussion had been going on for a few months and had resulted in heated arguments to the point where they were barely speaking.  I suggested that the family have the mother’s driving be evaluated by a third party. There are many services that provide this, just Google Senior Driving Assessment. The key here is that everyone, adult child and parent, must agree to abide by the results. If it turns out that the mother should not be driving, then other options for transportation can be implemented. Not being able to drive can be a devastating change for an older adult, but today’s options of taxis and ride-share cars can offer a safe and convenient alternative to driving. And, the best part is that the decision is made by a third party.

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article, “Who’s in Charge Here? Aging Parents resist Interfering ‘Helicopter’ Children” by Clare Ansberry, that highlights the line between appropriate concern and becoming an overly protective Helicopter child. The take away from the article is that our well-meaning acts of concern can be misconstrued and seen as trying to take over because we know what’s best. As our parent’s age, the greatest gift we can give them is to allow them to maintain their dignity, learn to be more patient and realize that not everything is going to be perfect.