The fork behind the toilet was my first clue that something was amiss.
It was in the guest bathroom of Mom’s condo—so apparently, further investigation was needed.
A new season
After Dad died, Mom waded through her grief with the support of family and friends—trying to snowbird from Ohio for a period of time. But managing two homes and the travel in between eventually became too much.
We’d always been close, so I was thrilled when she decided to move to Florida full time.
My husband and I found her a nice condo close to us and she settled in. Although she missed her loved ones back home, Mom gradually embraced her new home, new friends, being near the water and basking in the sunshine all winter long.
My ignorant bliss
I thought everything was going great.
Until I saw that fork.
Which prompted me to pull back the shower curtain to see what else I might’ve missed.
On the tile wall, there was a ragged wound where the soap dish used to be.
And it was lying in the bathtub, proof of the fact that my bliss was apparently ignorant indeed.
I don’t typically get wound up, so I calmly walked out to the living room where Mom was watching TV.
I sat down on the couch.
“Mom, why is the soap dish lying in the bathtub?”
She hesitated, then gave a casual wave of her hand. “Oh, I had a little fall.”
I watched her for a moment, trying to get a grip on my overprotective-daughter-been-a-nurse-forever-control-freak emotions.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I didn’t want you to worry.”
A new dance
That marked the beginning of many long talks we shared about how we’d negotiate our new dance together: balancing her autonomy and independence—with my need to provide and protect.
So when I read a forum question from an adult daughter in the post, “Be sensitive when accompanying elder to appointments,” I nodded and smiled.
In the post, MW describes her struggle with negotiating a similar dance—specifically in terms of going to the doctor with her mother. Her mom wants her there, but she doesn’t want her daughter to take over. But MW’s concerned that her mom isn’t sharing everything she should.
Empathizing with her conflicted emotions, I appreciated the sage advice of elder care expert Carol Bradley Bursack, author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories (affiliate link):
…If your mom feels that you’ll keep her from doing activities that she enjoys, even if they are a little risky, she may no longer talk with you about her day-to-day activities and then you’ll have a harder time knowing when she truly needs help. It often pays to tread carefully.
I certainly found that to be true in my own caregiving journey with Mom.
She had very clear priorities as she grew older—and her independence and autonomy topped the list. I learned pretty quickly that if revealing key details would inhibit them in any way, I’d likely be left in the dark.
Since one of the things I admired most about Mom was how feisty she was—there was no way I was going to suppress that spirit, or risk the quality of our relationship in the process.
Plus, I wanted to know what was going on—so I learned to embrace the rules she set for ensuring that would happen.
As adult children, we can let our worries and “what’s best” agendas trample all over the things that are most important to our aging parents—and doing so can create negative dynamics during a season that’s better off cherished and embraced.
As Carol so wisely said:
…I’d suggest that you sit back and put yourself in your mom’s place.
When I could do that, it was a big help to me, too.
For more resources about Agile Caregiving and other topics, please visit our page, Resources for the Journey.
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