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

Mr.lilly 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 Answer

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:

http://www.dsolie.com/articles/reframing.html