I imagine if there was an easy answer, we’d all be doing it, be happier, and much better off, but, alas.

My father is 88, sound mind, mostly healthy and stubborn as bleep. He had really bad sciatica, was miserable, and hit on the idea of getting a Trike. It’s been great in that he’s stronger, feels better, and overall it’s a good thing. He’s moving again!

But, I wouldn’t be here if it were that simple.

When he first got it, I told him that he needed a helmet. He got pissed and said, “I don’t need a helmet”. He got a helmet for Xmas from my cousins which turned out to be a good thing because, well, we all know where this is headed. I also suggested some biking gear so he wouldn’t lose things, etc. I I’ve biked a lot of years, he did too when he was younger, and I’ve lost all kinds of things, so I was trying to help.

So, naturally, he lost the remote to the garage, his keys and has fallen off the bike. It wasn’t a bad fall but he didn’t tell me about it until it was hurting really bad and he got scared and wanted to go to the ER.

I know I can’t save him from himself, he’s an adult and I’m not seeing any cognitive impairment other than a sheer determination not to accept any help from me or listen to me.

So, I guess, I’m interested in any advice, tricks, whatever, that helps to motivate an elderly father to behave a bit smarter and maybe take some advice that he doesn’t want. Or, maybe some advice that I don’t want.


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I’ve had to back off the stubborn parent I’m taking care of too, for my own sake.

Today she was watching good old QVC (which I love too...) and insisted that she needed a whole baking set dish thing. I started out with “Oh my G—-“ and stopped myself. I got her debit card, ordered it for her, and told her when it would be here.

If I told her how cluttered up her kitchen already is, and how she’s not returning to baking pies anytime soon, she would have called them up herself and ordered 5.

I realize it’s not as dangerous (although financially it could be) but mom is already starting to realize when I don’t say things to challenge her, that “oh, I guess I really CANT do that” when she tries. Nobody likes to hear I told you so, even when it was our parents telling US that. Won’t work.
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This could be my DH, He refuses to wear a helmet when skiing, although EVERYBODY wears one. He did wear one (to shut me up) 6 years ago when he decided he was going to get a motorcycle--long story short I said "if you are disabled in the wreck that is GOING TO HAPPEN and you're not wearing your helmet I will divorce you. You may not care about yourself, but the family does and I am NOT going down that road with you".

2 hours later he's in the NICU at the hospital for on hell of a motorcycle wreck. The helmet was literally broken in 2 pieces.

I DID take care of him, 4 months of rehab and such. He still had a massive concussion even with the helmet. The helmet saved his life.

Try that tack: Dad, do what you want. But if you get hurt b/c you refuse to use common sense, good luck finding care after the crash.

Now he won't even ride a bike b/c "I" have taken all the joy out of it by insisting he wear a helmet. He can certainly ride without. I just won't take care of him when he gets hurt for being stupid.
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As a consultant, I made a living telling people to do something they didn’t want to do (sometimes totally obvious). My best method was to tell them of some other group that had done it (often fictitious), and then saying ‘why wouldn’t that work here?’. (OK you wrap it up better than that) They would start with enthusiasm to find problems that meant they were completely different, but end up finding bits and pieces they could do. They were more objective when they were picking holes in someone else's solution. Perhaps you could adapt that with your father.

My mother was easier to approach by making it a concession that she made for other people’s benefit, rather than something that she ought to do for herself. It made her feel good to be helpful, instead of stupid herself.

Isn't it all great?
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Thanks for the replies, and sorry for the delay. Had a personal health issue and a bit of drama.

So, imagine Will Farrell going full melo-drama on Saturday.

”I hurt sooooo baaaaad! I’ve never hurt this bad before! I think I’m dying! I haven’t pooped in 4-days, that never happens.... Why won’t you help me! I’d never do this to you!!!!!!.”

The poop, not his exact word, was the topper. He comes up with some pretty amazing problems sometimes. He won’t go to a VA program because he doesn’t have enough underwear.

Anyways, I lost it and violated what are probably several golden rules and swore at him. Called him a “F’ing piece of work” to be precise. Third time this year he was dying.

It, actually, turned out OK, as we had one of our better conversations. I don’t know if he realized that he’s rejected most of what I’ve tried to get him to do. And, how much work getting the bits I’ve gotten through has been.

It’s still hard, because, in the end, I share in the consequences of his actions and inactions, but it’s his life, I just hope I don’t have to wheel chair him, or something worse, that was somewhat avoidable with minor precautions.

Anyways, it’s his life, not mine, and other than the “I haven’t pooped in 4 days” anxiety stuff, he’s of sound mind.

One other thing: the biking. I support him in that. Yes, it’s dangerous, as he’s proven, but it’s also the best thing he’s done for his mental health. Before the bike he was sitting in his home, binging Fox and Gunsmoke, now he gets outside, and some exercise. It’s worth the risk, I hope, if he’ll be safe on it and do things like wear a helmet, stay off the main roads, etc.

I hope I’m not wrong, but we don’t necessarily do our parents any good by protecting them from everything either.
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lkdrymom Feb 2019
Those poop conversations are going to get more and more frequent. And my father would expect ME to do something about it. I learned to redirect and tell him that is a question for his doctor, not me. My father is 'dying' every time he feels he is not getting enough attention. I wish it was only three times this year (and we are only in February). Sometimes getting mad at them is the only option you have. Remember, if he is of sound mind he is allowed to live as he chooses..but he also has to be the one to deal with the consequences. Don't come running to his aid because he made a bad choice. Let him deal with it himself, then he might think twice next time.
Try framing the discussion as something he can do for you to reduce your worry or relieve your stress instead of as something he needs to do for himself. Sometimes our parents are still willing to do for us what they won't do for themselves.
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It can work even better if it's 'something to do for a third party'. They tend to take the principal caregiver for granted.
I know it's a serious thing you have to deal with but this reminds me of those old clips on Laugh-In, where the guy in the rainsuit on a tricycle crashes into a fire hydrant and falls over. Have you asked his doctor because I don't think you should let him at that age drive a manual wheeled vehicle, period. I think balance is too out of control. Maybe a four wheeled bicycle in theory (they're about $1800) but putting anybody that age piloting any kind of manual wheeled vehicle seems hazardous for them and for others.
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freqflyer Feb 2019
Oh my gosh, I remember that Laugh-In skit.
My Mom will be 80 this year. She is quite a determined person. If I ask her not to do something because I know she will hurt herself in some way, she will definitely do it. So what I had to do for my own peace of mind, is realize 80 year olds who are determined or stubborn as you say, are especially not going to listen to their children. Because no matter how old we are, we are always children to them. And parents "know best",
But what I have seen is that when I show no concern and just let her do what she wants, then she chooses not to do the things I wouldn't want her to do.
I think it is a matter of control of their lives and not wanting to lose it.
Your Dad is pretty much going to do what he wants. So just don't say anymore about it, you have stated to him your concerns, now let him choose, because he is going to anyway.
And I just don't tell her what to do, I just pray.
Seems to work out better that way.
Best wishes! We gotta let them be them as long as they can.
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97yroldmom Feb 2019
I really liked this answer and so true. When they aren’t busy showing whose the boss of them, they have a little more brain power left for what they are attempting and just maybe deciding to be more cautious.
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