How can I limit my father’s activities to ensure his safety?
Caregiving often means finding a way to navigate difficult situations that have no easy answers. As an expert coach for professional women responsible for caring for an aging parent, Rayna Neises is an author and coach who answers top caregiver questions using unique encouragement, support, and expert resources, all backed by her extensive experience as a caregiver herself.
Question: My father insists on continuing the activities he has always done, even though it is not really safe for him to do so. He wants his independence, which I understand, but I also have to protect him. How to explain to him that he is unfortunately not able to do the same things?
To respond: Such a difficult place to live. As adult children, we often value our parents’ safety more than anything else, and our parents value their independence more, which I think is understandable. Reading your concern for your father, two things came to mind.
What is dangerous in what he wants to do? Really take the time to assess what’s on your mind: What makes you feel that way? What does your father say when you raise the issue? Does he hurt himself? Or are you worried that he will hurt himself? Specify if the activity is dangerous, is it dangerous to go there or is the environment in which it is located dangerous? Be sure to only address the real area of concern as much as possible.
In our family’s situation, it became unsafe for my dad to drive years before it became unsafe for him to play volleyball with his friends. In this case, we hired someone to take him to volleyball games so we wouldn’t steal something he loved while it was still safe to participate. Eventually his skin became so thin and his ability to communicate about injuries impaired, so we decided it was time for him to stop playing. He was 83 when he stopped playing, although age is never the only limiting factor.
Dad also liked lifting weights and swimming for exercise. At one point we became concerned because he seemed to be straining his muscles. He liked to push himself and lift heavier weights than we thought necessary. This time we hired a trainer to work with him so he could talk about the benefits of more reps at lighter weights. The trainer also kept an eye on him and helped him figure out the weight which was difficult but not too much. It worked great until we were concerned that he was going to the gym. Then we made the adjustment and had him go to another gym with his sister on the days she went to exercise class.
If you find the activity unsafe and there is no way to help your dad make it safe for him, I strongly recommend that you find a way for him to do something else during this period that is safe and that he enjoys. There are many senior centers with great activities available. Let him try a few options and develop a new routine. The most important thing is to occupy it.
Limiting the social and emotional interactions of our aging loved ones is a quick way to negatively impact their overall health and quality of life. Best wishes for finding the perfect fit for your dad.