I have written in past blog posts about how best to approach the topic of long term care with a parent or elderly loved one. There are no two situations that are exactly alike so there is no one best way to handle the delicate subject. It is especially difficult when the senior is resistant to making a change or to even acknowledging that he/she needs some assistance and is living in an unsafe environment.
It is hard to imagine a worse outcome however, than the one that occurred last month in Arizona. According to various media reports a 92 year old Arizona women allegedly shot her son when he tried to place her in an assisted living facility. Police responding to the scene found Son dead on the floor as a result of a gunshot wound and Mom in a chair muttering, “You took my life, so I’m taking yours”. She then told the police that she killed her son because he wanted to put her in a facility.
We don’t have a complete record of what events and conversations transpired leading up to this tragic outcome. It appears that Mom had moved into Son’s house only months earlier and a few nights before he died Son told Mom that she would be moving to an assisted living facility. We don’t know what other conversations Son had with Mom or what caused him to decide that the move was now necessary but the story does illustrate the importance of families sitting down and at least trying to have an open conversation. The safety and mental capacity of the senior should be balanced against that person’s right to make his/her own personal decisions – or at least have a voice. As this case shows, the topic is emotional, frightening and at times volatile.