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Mom Doesn't Believe I Know What's Best for Her

Your 88-year-old mother has made the decision to have chemotherapy for an invasive cancer that has little hope of a successful outcome.  You believe she will be putting herself through needless agony, and at her age you feel that she is taking an unnecessary risk.  You would make a different decision if you were her age, but your mother is of sound mind.

We are often tempted to assume decision-making for our parents as they age.  In fact, parents will more frequently seek your input when making a significant decision. This may give you the impression that they want you to make the decisions even though not all decisions need to be made by you.  Helping a parent is always a little bit like a dance, leading when necessary and being the follower whenever possible.

Try to think about it this way, independence is what we all want.  It is what we spend our childhood dreaming of, i.e., the day we can make our own decisions, go where we please, eat what we want, and stay out as late as we like.  Ah, the dreams of youth!  The elderly have been independent most of their lives, a lot longer than you.  Giving up decision-making can be freeing for some, but not likely for the majority.  As our children become adults we may consult with them more frequently about decisions that we are about to make.  Frankly, it is wonderful to have adult children that you can bounce ideas off of and consult for a second opinion.  Just be careful not to confuse consultation with authority.

While your parent may not be able to do everything independently, they may be able to make most decisions on their own.  For the optimal relationship, do not attempt to make a decision about anything your parent is able to decide without assistance.  While their decision may not be the choice you would have made, it is good to remember that if they are of sound mind, it is their life to live.  Do feel free to offer your opinion if asked, but remember to back away if they choose an opposite course.