“Nurse Kris, my adult children are trying to convince me to move into a ‘home’ for seniors. I want to stay here in my apartment. What can I do or say to put them at ease?” - Alfred S., Senior widowed dad of 4
First of all, Alfred, you should ask them nicely to be specific about why they suggest this.
Does it have to do with your safety or personal grooming? If you cannot manage to keep yourself bathed, groomed and fairly well fed, then this could be the issue. Or, is it that your kids think you are unsafe when you walk around? Are you feeling unsteady on your feet? Is there clutter to navigate around? Do you have slower reaction times?
Perhaps they’re worried about you preparing your own meals. Are you forgetting to turn the stove off?
Are you able to make decisions and follow them through? If any of these are a problem for you, they do have a right to be concerned.
As we age our body functions slow down…our eyes adjust to light differences more slowly, we find it more challenging to navigate stairs. We don’t sense pain or temperature the same way our kids do. For many, balance and reaction times change as does our ability to follow things through and determine what we must do. The more trips around the sun we have, the less likely we are to recognize our increasing limitations. It’s usually others who point this out to us, what we have trouble with.
With that in mind, saving face may mean employing a preemptive strike. How important is it that you think you have to do everything? Pick the things you definitely want to keep doing on your own, and let go of a few things you’ll accept help with. That means getting assistance with tasks before the kids mention it.
Navigation aids may be just what is needed to keep the kids at bay. For a person who struggles at times with balance, a cane doesn’t have to be the beginning of the end. Think of it as a dog-shooing stick.
If you suffer from occasional wetness that you didn’t plan on, start using adult absorbent products. Some of our senior men wear special briefs called “pull-ups”. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.
Let’s talk about food. Are your kids concerned about the mouldy food in your fridge? Are you heating frozen TV dinners or eating boxes of pasta and cans of beans? They have a right to be concerned! Now is the time you tell your kids that your days of cooking are over and you’ve ordered Meals on Wheels or made arrangements for someone to come in and do meal preparation for you.
Driving a car is a whole different category. Willingly giving that up to contribute to less greenhouse gasses, will make your adult children happy to know you are ecologically minded. If you feel awkward or tense driving, discuss this with your physician.
If you are capable, steady on your feet and always remember to lock your doors day and night, pay your own bills, arrange your own household maintenance jobs, don’t have mouldy food in your fridge, aren’t tripping over clutter, then chances are, that you are doing okay.
Please do remember that when your adult kids swoop in for a visit this summer, they are likely going to see changes in you. You’ll see changes in them too. Their hair colour, hairlines and waistlines change too.
If you are still able to sign your own legal and bank papers, then you likely still have the right to decline help, even if it means living differently than your kids think you should live. You have the right to accept and deal with risk as long as you understand what the risks are.
So, the moral of this story is, be proactive. Ask for help from friends or neighbours or caregivers, so you stay well and safe. Identify the tasks you feel you can continue to do and get assistance with the others. Let your kids be helpful - they want to help- but set polite boundaries about what you need help with.
That will help your kids feel better about you being on your own and give you more time to do the activities YOU like!
Best, Nurse Kris.