Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Driving and Living Alone. How Do You Make Your Parents Understand It's Not Safe!

This past year has been an incredibly difficult one for our entire family. My parents have just refused to acknowledge that anything is wrong ... that they need assistance ... that it's not safe to live alone or do the things they used to do anymore.
One of the many disappointing things for me is that I am a researcher. If I don't the answer, I try to find it. In fact, I grab on like a terrier (says my husband) and I won't let go until I have it all figured out.
This is one time ... one instance ... where there is no figuring it out.
I can't tell you how many books I've purchased and read that promise to divulge all the secrets to having happy, safe elderly parents ... the key to communication ... to long-term planning ... strategies to help them understand their future needs. The beautiful photos on the covers and the dust jackets make you think THIS one will be THE book that will end all the searching, all the agonizing, all the sleepless nights of worry.
NOPE. So sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there aren't books out there that can do that for you.
When I was just out of college, I was reading lots of philosophy books trying to figure out the meaning of life. Until one day, I realized, guess what? All these philosophers were philosophizing about the meaning of life but they, too, didn't really have any idea what everything meant. Nobody had a blueprint or a handbook for how to live. I finally put all the philosophers away and started praying more.
In my opinion, there is no definitive book available because there is no plan that one can implement that will really help. If your parents do not wish to acknowledge they need assistance, there's no book or strategy that will MAKE them acknowledge their frailty. If your parents insist on driving even when their reflexes slow or they begin to make poor or odd decisions about where they are going and when they are going ... if they begin to get lost all the time when they are driving, YOU know the time has come for them to stop, but they may still stubbornly cling to the notion that they're fine. "Mind your own business!" they may even say angrily. The fact is, if they want to drive and they've got a valid license, they can drive. You can hide the keys to the car or take them away, but they can always RENT a car and have it delivered right to their door!
If they are only eating toast and drinking coffee and burning more toast than they are really eating ... but they still refuse to have a cook come in ... there's little you can do. You can only wring your hands and visit with food as often as possible, hoping that will be sufficient nutrition for them. You, too, WANT desperately to believe it's only a phase and that your parents will be themselves again in no time. But you see, old age is not a disease that has a cure. You don't get better.
I have seen life so differently these past few years. I know what the meaning of life is ... right out of my catechism book: To Know, Love and Serve God ... wow. Helping your elderly parents gives you TONS and TONS of opportunities to do this every, single day. It is SO difficult to try to accomplish what is safe and best for your parents if they refuse to accept that they need anything from you. The only thing you can always fall back on ... the only absolutely sure thing that will help is: PRAYER. That's it. That's the solution I've been searching for all this time.
It was through prayer that my parents were in a car accident (where no one else was injured) ... that injured my dad enough for them to WANT to move into assisted living ... that destroyed the car, so took it away without any of us having to figure out how to approach that anymore. And, while he still could rent a car, the patrolman wrote a note to the DMV to have his license taken away until he would take a road test. Thankfully, we turned in the licenses for IDs and, although the road-test topic comes up every now and then, I try to deflect the conversation onto some other subject and that seems to be working FOR NOW. That's another thing you must remember. Take each day one day at a time. FOR NOW things are okay. FOR TODAY. We'll face tomorrow when it comes.
For this new year of 2009, I hope to have increased space for listing useful products and services for our elderly parents, as well as just being here if anyone needs to talk about what you're going through.
Have you gotten the car situation under control yet? Have you convinced your parents they may need to move into an assisted-living center? Do you know what your parents are eating every day?
Feel free to email me if just want to talk about it.


Jeannette Katzir said...

I have recently completed a book about my parents and siblings during the war and what happened after wards. Below is a brief summary:

Baby Boomers are getting older, and our parents are beginning to leave us. For many of us, issues of inheritance will be handled fairly and equitably. But what would it be like if it didn’t go as expected? In my memoir Broken Birds, I describe the story of my mother, a Partisan fighter in World War II, and my father, a survivor of Dachau death camp, and their five children. When Mom dies, she doesn't leave the family home to Dad, or distribute it evenly among the five children, but instead leaves it to a single child. What was once a close-knit family is now led down the road to emotional destruction.

If you are interested in seeing a sample chapter please see my blog:

karen said...

I remember the day that i got a phone call from my mother-in-law telling me that they had driven into a ditch. it seems that my father-in-law had not turned when she had told him to, "Do you think we should get a car with two air bags?", said my mother-in-law.
Being the daughter-in-law. i really wanted to leave it to their children.
As many of you have guessed. My father- in law couldn't see properly and his wife "was his eyes".
My blood chilled. I couldn't help saying," what about the station wagon full of kids that you may run into?????????????"

My husband couldn't bring himself to tell his parents, they were not safe drivers, to say the least! thank god, their daughter had no trouble telling them.

Things deteriorated and I had to bring help from N.Y. to Florida for them, which of course, was "outrageous "according to them, they didn't need help.

I have long lived in the sandwich generation.

My in-laws are long gone.
Now, I live making sure that my mom is alright. She lives in an assisted facility here in ct.,living with help.
I need to know that my mom with dementia, a bag and wheel chair bound has an advocate on a day to day basis. My mom, not an easy woman, and her help could start their own sit-com.I stop by regularly but its good to know she is not alone.

I have an eighteen year old and a 21 yr old. Believe me, that is plenty to worry about.

Sandwich generation?I think so.
My life chose my profession.

good luck to us all.