Saturday, October 31, 2009

Things Most Parents Won’t Tell Us… and Why

(Because of responses to Tuesday’s post, this replaces the planned "Food" post.)

The following situations and reactions are truly not exclusive to older people. We’d probably react the same way; but when older people are involved it's different, or does it just seem different? OK. Most parents won’t tell us--

--They’ve fallen. Reason #1 for a remarkable 88-year-old mother: PRIDE. By the time her daughter found out, her mother had fallen many times and bounced back to normal without anyone’s knowing; or if they knew, they’d been sworn to secrecy. This time she broke her 88-year-old hip. It turns out a simple corrective device, placed in her shoes, was all that was needed to solve the balance problem that caused the fall in the first place. But the solution came after enduring hospitalization and rehabilitation for her hip. While she’s still a spunky and amazing 88-year-old, it did “take her down a notch.”

Reason #2: for more older parents than we realize: FEAR--of being forced to give up their home and go to a place where their adult children think falls are less likely—be it moving from a home with stairs to a one-floor apartment or to independent or assisted living, or coming to live with their adult children (granted, much less likely today than it was in previous generations)

--They’ve had a driving incident. Reason: older parents FEAR they'll have to stop driving. This fear is very prevalent. But it but needn’t be if adult children are smart like Kim (Archives: Driving Part 1); rule out medical issues that prevent people’s driving; and know about resources that enable older people to drive well longer (Archives: Driving Part 2). If it's determined that parents are no longer qualified to drive, it will be based on solid evidence. On the other hand, it makes everyone's life easier and happier if safe-driving parents continue to drive (possibly aided by programs like CarFit,, as long as it remains legitimate for them to do so.

--Their problems and concerns. Reason #1: THEY STILL FEEL PROTECTIVE TOWARDS THEIR CHILDREN and don’t want to burden them, especially if the adult children are dealing with problems of their own.

Reason #2: They DON'T WANT TO BE TOLD WHAT TO DO, they just want someone to listen and someone who they know cares, to bounce ideas off of.

And to a lesser degree, depending on their children's way of responding---

--What they’re doing. Reason: NO ONE WANTS A LECTURE or being told what to do, be they children, young adults or old adults. One independent-living, 80-something-year old father said: “I told my daughter I was going to the movie with a friend and immediately was told it wasn’t wise because of swine flu. Come on. Children and people with certain conditions and are most at risk and I’m neither.” Another 80-year-old sums up the feelings of many when she confidently says “I still think I can make my own decisions.”

Basically, it seems when parents have reached a certain age and consider themselves independent and able to make good decisions, some may be protective of their adult children and most—if not all—resent unsolicited, even if well-meaning, advice for the reasons above. There is a little poem in my yet-to-be published book that goes something like this:

Our children have knowledge of important things
Things that they think we should know
Forgetting we told them those very same things
When they were young-- years ago.

Something to think about.

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