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Mom wants to die in her own house

 

Question: My 94 year-old mother refuses to move. I live on Cleveland's west side. Mom is on the east side. She had a feeding tube surgically inserted last year and I've been taking care of her since late December. She says she can do everything herself but that isn't true. She falls, sometimes in the kitchen, the living room, her boyfriend's apartment. And when she does she's glad there's someone to help her up. Intellectually she realizes she can't do everything herself. Verbally she says she has always helped herself and she can do it again. She says she wants to die in her own house.

Dr. Amy: It’s wonderful that your mother has been able to remain independent for so long. Many people are able to live on their own with the right plan and supports. I encourage you to ask your mother to be assessed by her doctor to figure out why she is falling. As we get older we lose muscle, and balance can be a challenge. But there might be something else at play, health wise. Is the condition that has caused her to have a feeding tube also causing her to fall? Is she taking a new medication, or is there another reason? Is her feeding tube being monitored adequately?  

It’s also a good idea to take a fresh look at your mom’s house and that of her boyfriend. If she is committed to living by herself, it’s important to make sure her home is as safe as possible. There are many options to help her. Are there tripping hazards that can be removed? Maybe a walker is a good idea? What about homecare for a few hours a week to help with housekeeping, laundry and meal prep? Does she have a medical alert?

You might consider hiring a geriatric care manager to assess the situation and come up with a plan with you and your mom. I’m a big fan of geriatric care managers because I have seen the good they can do. You can read more about geriatric care managers here. I’d love to hear from readers who have worked with a geriatric care manager to know what your experiences have been.

I know you must be very worried about your mother. It’s very difficult, but at the end of the day, she has the right to make decisions you don’t agree with, so long as she is of sound mind. All you can do is focus your energy on things over which you have control or influence—such as safety and task support.  Good luck! 

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. January 17, 2014 at 7:07 am | Posted by Roger P Gervais

    I would like to share another resource about aging in place that might be of benefit to your readers, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. If your loved one wishes to remain in their home for as long as possible, please consider the services of an individual holding the CAPS designation as part of your aging in place team. Their goal is to find solutions for your home environment to increase your safety and facilitate your on-going independence through home modifications. It's about responding to current and future needs in order to age at home with confidence by removing hazards in your home that may cause injuries if left unattended. The most commonly recognized safety equipment is a grab bar in the bathroom but it's more than just that. It's also ensuring adequate lighting so that individuals can see better, or replacing door handles and faucets with lever models for ease of use. There are many other universal design options available for consumers to assist with this new stage in life, so please consider contacting the National Association of Home Builders and ask about the services of a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Here is a web link to assist you with your search. Simply enter your city or state name and it should provide of list. If you're in Canada, select "International" in the State choices: http://www.nahb.org/directory.aspx?sectionID=1391&directoryID=188

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