My mother needs help but is unwilling to accept it. What should I do?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 30, 2016 asked...

My mother is angry over losing her driver's license and accuses me of stealing her car and taking away her license. I did take her car for two weeks because she had a locksmith make a new lock so she could drive. She won't accept Meals On Wheels and eats cookies for lunch. She is also mad at me for taking one of the bills she hadn't paid. I am now getting her mail and paying her bills, because her gas was about to be turned off. She is insulted that I think she needs help and so won't accept any, but I've had to take over her bills one hundred percent.

Expert Answers

David Solie is an author, educator, speaker, and thought leader in geriatric and intergenerational communication. His book How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap With Our Elders is a landmark text that has been read and reread by legions of baby boomers searching for a better approach to working with their parents and other older adults.

At some point, our loved ones' choices seem to go from bad to worse. We see our parents spinning out of control and we know we are the only thing that stands between them and a disaster. We do for them what they did for us when we were in their care. We move them decisively out of harm's way. Often it is not appreciated. But our obligation is to make parent-responsible decisions at the risk of being rejected and berated.

It sounds like your mother is making a frantic attempt to hold on to some element of control in her world. Ironically, she is accelerating her loss of control as she rejects better choices. It might be helpful to reframe her choices in terms of control. An article I wrote recently may help:

Community Answers

Frena answered...

elderly parents seldom accept help when we couch it in terms that make them seem as if they can't manage, especially when they really can't manage. you might get further with "I" statements -- not "you can't manage, you forgot, you didn't" (which of course they hate) but "I want you safe," "I need to know you're getting the food," "I ...blah blah.

however, without trying to diagnose your Mom, it sounds like a lot more is wrong than you indicate. i wonder whether she has a possibly lifelong undiagnosed mental illness going on. unless that can be diagnosed and helped, the rest probably won't come right.

i'd suggest getting her to a psychiatrist for investigation. you don't have to say it's a psychiatrist necessarily. you can say, "i think it would help to get your medications looked at by someone who understands these things. i want you to have the best care and help."

i'm not a big psych med fan, but i have seen a number of very difficult and haunted elders be able to have peace in their old age because their paranoia and fear has become calmed.

think it over. one more expert opinion probably wouldn't hurt a bit.

Akid4fr answered...

My mom definitely has psych issues. She is 91, lives alone in the house I was raised in (I'm 63). She is unable to care for herself and is angry and bitter. Recently, she was so verbally abusive to the care worker that after over a year, the worker quit. Mom refuses any help offered about getting another care worker. I would love to get her to a doctor for help. You say "getting her to a psychiatrist for investigation" which is a wonderful suggestion! Yet, if my mom won't accept Meals on Wheels (as first writer expressed), how in the world am I going to get her to a doctor? All the "I statements" that I make are still interpreted as "attacking" her. I'm at a loss as to how to help short of court-ordered conservatorship. Thanks for listening.

Gillian21 answered...

I'm having massive problems with my mum, refuses to attend appointments, says shes managing, doesn't need any help. So far I've found clearly informing her GP and getting her to visit at home - waiting on blood results and result of 10 minute memory test.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Why would my mom need help if my brother is my mom's power of attorney and his daughter gets paid for taking care of her but they are hardly there with her helping her my brother expects for us to do his daughter work and she is always by her self and getting hurt all the time don't get me wrong I love my mom I just want to know what I can do for her know she can't walk and my brother is seeking help for her what can I do for her.