You may recall that I explained that my brothers and I are dealing with our widowed mother who has become more frail in recent years, and has just celebrated her 85th birthday. We talked again about how we could do this or that, but created no specific steps. With mom in a seemingly more precarious position than ever before, what are we to do?

We all wanted to be sure that we were treating Mom fairly, but that she was safe. So do you make ‘safe’ decisions, even if it drives the person you are caring for crazy?

Like walking. You and I take walking for granted. Mom needs help to walk, heavily leaning on my arm each time we go for dinner or simply to the store. Do I mind? Not at all. Its sweet for me to have Mom on my arm when we walk into a favorite restaurant of hers. I think she likes it, too. But don’t tell her that she needs assistance to walk, and heaven forbid you would bring a walker to her with the suggestion that it will help her get around the house.

“Walkers are for old people” she once said to me. Even I was speechless, as the obvious reply would not have been the kindest of answers. If mom embraces the use of a walker, she is embracing her old age and, by extension, her mortality. She doesn’t want to do it. My brothers’ instincts are just like mine…she has to use it to be safe. “Tell her that” is our response to each other, with bewildered looks to each other.

So, in order to take care of her we strongly suggest she use a walker, but we won’t make her use one. Do we risk jeopardizing her safety? Yes, but we dare not insist lest. . .lest. . .what? And therein is the problem. None of us wants to offend our parents. But neither do we want to put them in harm’s way. So we struggle to find the right balance (and we happily let mom hang on to our arms every chance we get.

Tim, Tom and I are struggling with other, similar safety issues. Using the stairs of her split level house. Do we simply install the chair glides? Will she use it? And cooking? Will she remember that she left the stove on? Her bedroom is on the top floor, the kitchen the middle, and laundry on the lower floor of the split level house. Do we suggest that we combine these on one floor? I can just imagine her response…”And wreck this house? Forget it.”

So we struggle with safety and familiarity and hope to find a way to gently bring her to the next steps in life, whatever they may be. In our case, the next steps are not any easier than when we had mom sign her living will and power of attorney documents, but that somewhat humorous story is for another blog entry . . .