Q. My mother has become more and more dependent on me and even talks to me like I am her parent, asking permission to do things like go to lunch with a friend. I don't feel comfortable with this change in our roles, but don't know how to handle it.
I know this is a hard transition for you. After all, she is the woman who tended to all your needs and you have to accept that she can't do that for you anymore. Not only that, but she is now relying on you for things she used to be able to do for herself. Here are a few tips that will help.
Try not to talk down to her. Although it might take numerous attempts to get a message through, try to talk to her on an adult level. Don't speak for her. If you are in a restaurant or the doctor's office, force yourself to let her do the talking. However, with the doctor, if you notice she is having difficulty explaining an issue help her along without taking over the conversation.
Try not to scold. Instead of saying the things you may really want to say, make a conscious effort to speak with kindness. Instead of, "When was the last time you changed your clothes?" say, "How about if we put on a clean shirt? It looks like maybe you spilled something on the front of you."
Refraining from anger will always be the better approach when dealing with your mother. I'm sure she makes you angry on many occasions, but use every ounce of willpower you can muster to keep your voice controlled and unemotional. Don't get into an argument with her, change the subject instead. Otherwise, she will probably dig her heels in and the situation will be out of control in a heartbeat.
This will all be an adjustment for both of you, but, in the long run, all will benefit.
NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to email@example.com or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.