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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