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My impatient father-in-law


Question: My father-in-law met with an accident and underwent left arm and left hip replacement surgery. It’s been 18 days since his surgery. He is bedridden and we are taking good care of him. He is an active smoker and drinker. Till yesterday he was fine and now he is asking for cigarettes and has become very non co-operative and impatient. In spite of our paying more attention and devoting all our time. We are losing our patience now. How do we handle this situation?

Dr. Amy: I am not clear from your letter whether you have given your father-in-law cigarettes as he has asked or not, and whether this is the cause of his impatience. Even though you may not like his smoking, as long as he is cognitively intact he has the right to make his own decisions. That includes making the decision to smoke!

One of the hardest parts of caregiving can be watching people we love choose to do things we wish they wouldn't, or that we know are bad for them. However, when we are caring for an aging parent, we need to remind ourselves that they have the right to live their life as they choose. If they have a cognitive impairment, we may need to step in to make sure they are safe.

The best course of action for you may be to have your father-in-law checked out by the doctor to make sure he is healing well and that his pain is under control. His impatience could be due to an underlying medical issue or poorly controlled pain. For this reason, seeing the doctor is a good idea. Good luck – caring for someone who is being difficult and impatient is challenging!

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