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Published March 31, 2012, 11:30 PM

Bursack: Mom resents daughter’s attempts to help

Dear Carol: My mother is mentally sharp, but she has serious physical health problems. I try to help her manage her health so that she can stay out of the hospital. When I push her to make good decisions about taking in fluids or using her cane, she tells me that that I’m “bossing” her and that she is perfectly capable of deciding what she needs.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Dear Carol: My mother is mentally sharp, but she has serious physical health problems.

I try to help her manage her health so that she can stay out of the hospital. When I push her to make good decisions about taking in fluids or using her cane, she tells me that that I’m “bossing” her and that she is perfectly capable of deciding what she needs.

She won’t allow me to go with her to the doctor.

I don’t want to strip her of her independence, but I want to help her do what’s right for her. Do I just give up and let her control her own health choices? The arguing is draining and gets me nowhere. – Grace

Dear Grace: Your mom likely feels her independence seeping away and is using this power play to avoid what she sees as giving up the right to make her own decisions.

Apparently, she feels that bringing someone with her to medical appointments infringes on that independence, which is too bad. But you need to start where you are, which is facing a wall of resistance.

Could you try backing off for awhile? Giving her some space may help her realize that you are there to help, not take over. When you do offer help, do so gently and let her know that ultimately the choice is hers. It’s hard for many aging people to be subjected to their adult children’s opinions about what they should do with their lives, so the fact that she resists your well-meant advice isn’t surprising.

If you call or write the doctor and voice your concerns, perhaps at the next appointment the issue of bringing along a family member can be addressed. Sometimes an insistent physician can get through to a patient when the family can’t. I understand that she doesn’t follow the doctor’s orders at home, but this could be because she forgets what she’s supposed to do. It’s possible that she’s just very good at covering up some memory issues. Also, making poor decisions is one hallmark of several types of dementia, so that is something to consider.

I’d suggest that you tell her that you love her and that you’ll go along with her wishes despite that fact that you see issues quite differently. If she truly is cognitively healthy, she has a right to decide how she lives. Let her know that if she needs you or wants your opinion, you will be there.

Hopefully, if you back off – hard as that can be – she will eventually come around and see that she can trust you to go with her to medical appointments and help her when needed.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com

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