When it comes to my mom’s health, I’m not afraid to take charge: Who’s the parent? Who’s the child?

When it comes to my mom’s health, I’m not afraid to take charge: Who’s the parent? Who’s the child?



As I have been growing older – and so has my mom – a shift has been happening where the parenting roles reverse: I become the parent and my mother becomes the child.

She is 87 and super fit for her age. She swims 40-50 minutes 3-4 times a week and walks every day including a 3-mile walk once a week with a friend! Given this amount of activity, you may wonder why would she need ‘parenting’ at all. One of the areas of concern is her health.


Mom, what’s wrong with your leg?

My mom recently noticed something uncomfortable in one of her legs. Honoring her privacy, I recommended that she get it checked out. “Oh no, it is nothing” she said.

I am not one to sit still when it comes to health concerns so when she continued to mention it, I wanted to step in and take control of the situation. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done. There is nothing more upseting to my mom than for me to insert myself into her health care.


Mom, go see a doctor

Fortunately, she was already going to see a podiatrist for a toe issue, so she asked him about her leg concern. He gave her an ultrasound and discovered that, yes, the condition was serious enough and needed to be evaluated by a surgeon. Being told that she would receive a call, she went home with anticipation. Two weeks went by and still no call from the surgeon so she called her podiatrist to find he was on vacation. They told her that he would call when he returned.

Now into the third week, my mom finally received a call from the podiatrist’s office asking her how the surgery went?!


Mom, it’s time for me to play parent

You can imagine how I was practically out of my skin wanting to manage the situation. My mom asked me not too and I agreed although, by now it was over the top. When I returned to Portland, I tried to sleep and could not. I figured out who the surgeon was and made a call. Within 30 minutes, I had the information I needed from the surgeon’s office.

Of course, I knew what was coming as I had also called the podiatrist’s office, as well as my mom’s general practitioner. As expected, my mom was upset. And yet, if I had let the ineptitude of the podiatrist’s office continue along with my mom’s casual approach, how much longer would the roulette game go on?


Here are some of the lessons I learned

I’d like to share some insight I’ve gathered from this personal story which, by the way, is still being played out.

Parents, please add a friend or family member to your medical record so that when needed, the doctors have permission to speak to the assigned person. This is critical and it greatly helps your loved ones understand what is happening with your health. As an adult child in this instance, it was worth having my mom be upset with me in order to light a fire under the podiatrist and let the surgeon know about her health issue.

Three weeks was really one week longer than I wish I had waited. Giving our parents some leeway is important AND there may be a point where it is life altering if we do not step in.

Our parents will always be our parents and we their children, and it is true that the roles flow back and forth in supportive and loving occasions, appropriately judging the right time to step in with care and respect is important.


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