Agony Aunt

Patricia Marie, MBACP qualified counsellor is a member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, practising in Harley Street, Essex and Scotland. She has many years experience of dealing with domestic violence, relationship problems, bereavement, depression, addictions, post traumatic stress and many other emotional issues. If you have a dilemma, please email

I feel that my mother can no longer live by herself

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 12 May 2016
I've been worrying about this for a while but feel that the time has finally come to address it. My mother is 87 and has lived on her own for the past 16 years since her husband (my father) died. She has always been very independent but is now struggling to cope with day to day tasks. I feel that deep down she knows this but refuses to acknowledge it. I don't like her being alone in case something happens.

I don't know what to do. How do people deal with this? I don't want to force my mother into something she doesn't want but I can't see how she can live safely and comfortably on her own.

Please help.

Patricia Marie says...

Many older people see themselves as proud survivors, who, despite declining health, can deal with whatever life throws at them. The wartime generation value their independence, often digging their heels in if they feel bullied in any way.

Uncertainty and fear of change can cause them much distress, as they desperately try to stay in control of themselves and their environment. However, there comes a time when decisions need to be made on the best options of ensuring them independence but keeping them safe and happy too.

Your mother is extremely blessed to have such a caring daughter, but put yourself in her shoes and imagine your children writing a similar letter about you. Before pushing her to accept that she is becoming more vulnerable, and that she needs help to sort out her living arrangements, try to understand her feelings. Have a heart to heart with her, listen with empathy, and reassure her by involving her with any subsequent decisions. You could perhaps also enlist a family friend, her GP, the local vicar, or a social worker to talk to her and reinforce your concerns.

Social Services have a duty to provide care, and if you contact them they could put a suitable care package together. Your mother's house could be adapted to suit her needs, and it may be that with a little assistance, and a personal alarm, she will be able to continue to live at home. A carer could become a regular companion as well as a huge form of support to her. Day centres are also available for senior citizens, providing an abundance of amenities and activities that she may enjoy, alongside making some new friends with similar needs to hers. Alternatively, offer to visit some local sheltered living centres and care homes with her. She may be impressed to see how different they can be to the stereotypical 'Old People's Home' of days gone by.

If your mother could be more accepting of the situation, she may even get to enjoy her change of life, as later years can be highly pleasurable and fulfilling, with the additional benefit of hopefully enjoying unfettered time with you.

Age UK are an organisation offering invaluable support and advice for the elderly and family members: 0800 169 2081
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