Some Risky Behavior Might Be Necessary for Your Elder’s Mental Health
Dear Carol: My dad, 72, has been adventurous all his life and that spirit doesn’t seem to be dampened by aging or even some health problems. He’s always loved snow skiing though thankfully he settles for just cross-country skiing on our flat trails. He still wants to ride his bike in all seasons except winter, and that scares me to death. He says this is healthy. Yes, but what if he falls while doing these things? How do I convince him that he’s risking life and limb with the way he lives? His brain seems to be working fine so I’m limited in how much I can intervene, but I live in fear that he will have a terrible accident and end up in a wheelchair or even die. Help! – DP
Dear DP: I hear you. It’s scary to watch an older person take off on a bike let alone on skis. While accidents happen to young people as well, they are less likely to break bones and if they do, they are far less likely to be permanently disabled or even die from the injury.
Your dad makes me think of my neighbor, Joe, from whom I provided care over the years. He was older than your dad but was still determined to walk the mile to get downtown even in the winter. I offered to drive him, but no, he wanted his independence. I pointed out that he could afford a cab. Again, no, he’d do that coming home but not going. I’d see him walk by my house when we had snow on the ground and precarious sidewalks and my heart would nearly stop. Did he fall? Yes. Once our mail carrier found him and made sure he got home. Yet, well, what could I do? This was important to him and it was his life. Joe’s mental health, his dignity,
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “For anyone having to walk the last segments of life with a loved one, read this.” …Delores
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