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The Life Transition Blog

Preserve Your Aging Parent’s Independence


One of the most difficult aspects of parenting your parents is the very delicate balance between preserving their independence and taking charge. While most of us will perceive it as "easier" to take on an activity ourselves, it is usually better to find a way to get the job done in a manner that allows our aging parents to remain in control.

For example, if your Mom is having difficulty managing her mail and her bills and keeping her checkbook balanced, you might decide to have her mail come directly to you and to set up automatic payments for most of her bills. However, by doing so, you rip control from your Mom, likely making her feel angry toward you. An alternative might be to ask your Mom to put all of the mail in a special place each day, and then for you to come once a week and sit with her while she sorts through the mail and prepares her checks. Sure, this will take you more time, but you will allow Mom to feel as though she is still responsible for herself.

Sometimes, we will have no choice and we will have to take charge in order to keep our parent safe. If Dad has cracked up the car and you've determined that it is no longer safe for him to drive, you must make sure that he no longer is behind the wheel. How can you preserve Dad's independence in this situation? One idea might be to arrange for transportation services that he can access when he needs them that don't require him to ask you for a ride. In some areas, local taxi companies will allow you to set up an account. This way, if Dad wants to meet a friend to play cards, he can do so without the extra stress of arranging to get there and back.

Whenever you are concerned about your parent's ability to manage activities of daily living, you have an opportunity to help them preserve independence. There are always choices for how to solve the problems you will encounter. If you make a real effort to consider your parent's dignity, and balance that need with your need to get the task done efficiently, you are likely to enjoy a better relationship with your parents as they age.
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