Influencing Aging Parents

This is a great editorial I recently read.  The issue of helping the elders in our lives make choices that protect tham and the people around them is difficult. This often involves changing patterns and habits as well as loosing some indpendance.  This article provides some great insights on how to influence aging parents in a positive way.


Using a carrot before bringing out a stick….

I read letter to Dear Abby on April 4th which made me cringe. A daughter wrote to say she was trying to get her 80 year old mother to stop driving as she had been involved in a number of minor incidents. The solutions the daughter offered were that she would drive her mother, even though she lives 25 miles away, and then offered to move into her mother’s apartment complex.

I agree that her mother should no longer drive, but of course her mother rejected both of the very poor choices being offered. And I think Abby’s suggestion of having her doctor write a letter to the DMV is another poor first step.

Try offering sensible and reasonable solutions before dragging her screaming from the car. For most elders the issue is not about driving, but about the loss of freedom and the need to be dependent on others. In many cases they don’t even want to drive and are often scared when they are driving. You must determine what their real issues are. How would you feel if this was happening to you? We don’t want to have something taken away from us, but we do like to get something new.

Don’t take driving away. Give them transportation alternatives. We must offer them new and better ways to get themselves to and from their destinations, that increase their options, provide them control, and don’t make them dependent on asking for help.

You must do your homework. Preparing a budget that shows how much it costs to own a car is a great place to start. Not having to pay for fuel, insurance, maintenance and depreciation will result in significant savings, which will easily defray most expenses for taxis and drivers etc. Find out what the wholesale price of the car is and show them how many rides they could pay for using that and the annual savings. It will usually be a lot more than they will need. Saving money is usually a very positive benefit from an elder’s point of view, mine too for that matter.

Find out how community transportation works. Find a friend or neighbor who could be paid to drive. Talk with a taxi company about fares, and check bus service if is close and community transport for the elderly. Home heath agencies often provide driver services. If you use a fee based service it is best to set up a monthly billing that will include tips so that there will be no added issues of paying, tipping etc.

When you have completed the research, prepare a simple written list showing how easy it is for them to make arrangements for their own transportation. Include numbers to call, schedules, destinations, etc. Leave it with them so they can think about it. You can bring them an extra level of comfort if you offer to go with them on their first outing. It is a wonderful way to ease the fear of the change.

If nothing works you may of course have to use a stick, but please, not to start the process.

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