What I Wish I'd Known About Caregiving Priorities: Caring.com Expert/Geriatric Psychologist David Solie

The author of How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap With Our Elders talks about discovering that parents want comfort and companionship from their children, not management.

With all his expertise in helping seniors navigate their final years, you might think David Solie would have sailed through his years of care giving for his mother without any regrets. In fact, Solie -- a geriatric psychologist, the author of How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap With Our Elders, and a member of Caring.com's advisory board -- admits that, at times, he went overboard trying to "manage" her care.

"I wish I had known that I didn't have to be so anxious about it -- that ultimately, worrying about all these horrific scenarios didn't change the outcome or make me a better caregiver," he says now. "We rev ourselves up so much to do the right thing in the caregiver role that it can really become too much. I wish I'd relaxed more and spent more time on what mattered the most."

Carol Solie was determined to stay in her home, even as her health deteriorated, but extended family members pressed her son to move her into assisted living. And in turn he pressed her, taking her on a whirlwind tour of retirement communities, hoping to get her to change her mind. "It was too much," he says now. "It wasn't necessary. Had I relaxed my hand a bit, my mother wouldn't have felt under so much duress, and she wouldn't have dug in so deeply."

Solie did honor his mother's fundamental wish: She stayed in her own home until the last year of her life, when a massive stroke sent her to a nursing facility. She spent ten months there and then, after a second stroke, passed away within three days. But Solie says that, like so many worried caregivers, he spent more time doing things for her than with her.

"If I were doing a postmortem on the whole experience, I wish I had just told myself, 'Relax, it's OK. There's not a scorecard for you in terms of whether you were the perfect care provider because you covered every safety base.' What our parents really need from us is comfort, and our friendship. It may be counterintuitive -- it may seem that we need to convince them that we know best -- but they need to be accepted where they're at."

Read the full interview with David Solie.

Stay Connected With Caring.com

Get news & tips via e-mail