How can I convince my mom to stop using the stove?

Revyarb asked...

Hi, The concern I am faced with my mom is cooking. She tells us that she won’t use the stove, but when she feels the urge she does anyway. There is a personal caregiver with her four days for seven hours of the day. When the personal caregiver is gone for the day this is when she gets busy. There is a microwave available for her use; we feel that using that is much less dangerous. However even with the microwave there has been food burned to a crisp. One day I smelled a unusual burn smell in her apt. and when I enquired about it, she told me it was her “hair”. Her mom told her never to throw hair in the garbage, so she chose to burn it in the microwave. My question to you is, is there a way that we can reach her to convince her that cooking is no longer an option? We know the other option is turning off the gas, however the caregiver won’t be able to fulfill her duties this way. If we shut off the gas a huge confrontation will soon follow and she is one that can put on a show. We are desperately trying to keep her mild during this time because we are in the process of petitioning the court for guardianship. Currently she is telling the court that she desires that I am her guardian, and a confrontation could jeopardize her decision. I eagerly await your thoughts Bless Your Spirit! -RevYarb

Expert Answer

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

The sad news is that your mother does need protection. Her mind is jumping to unexpected conclusions.  For instance, to get rid of hair and to follow her mother's advice, she burns her hair in the microwave.  Or, if you have a helper who cooks for her, she thinks that she must wait for the helper to leave, before she can cook.   She is operating from a different logic so you could not count on her not to use the stove.

When you talk with her, she might mean to comply, but her logic makes more sense to her.    Cooking is an old habit.   And so is wanting independence.

The good news is that you are progressing toward guardianship.

But perhaps your caregiver could help you buy some time. Could the helper enter your mother's home very humbly? Could she ask your mother's advice?  "What do you want to eat?"  "How do you cook it?" Is there some way that your mom could cook while the helper is there?

 Let her cook! Maybe she would not feel that her indepenence is threatened so much. She could get the cooking bug out of her system. She is not being replaced.   It might not be perfect, but you could help her with some meals and show the caregiver how to help her. You would have to work with the caregiver, support her, let her know what you are trying to do.

Another thing that you could do would be to take her to a geriatric psychiatrist who may be able to help with a diagnosis and a treatment that would help your mother get through this time of adjustment.

These ideas might help until the guardianship is completed and you can make the needed arrangements for your dear mother.