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Refusing to let go

Getting older parents to face some realities isn't always easy.

DEAR HARRY: My father is 84 and suffers from early-stage Alzheimer's. My mother is 81 and has had heart problems for years. Last week we were told that he had to give up his driver's license. This was devastating to him; he cries constantly.

My sister and I want them to move to a total-care facility, but we've hit a stone wall. Dad has told us that they've prepared for a situation such as this, but won't tell us how. Mom won't even admit to a potential problem. They won't let us take over their bill-paying, and they have made some bad mistakes. For example, in March they bought a big diamond ring ($17,000) for my mother's birthday. We know that our parents are worth about $700,000, but they could squander it in a day. How can we get them to let us help?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: You are hit with one of the biggest problems of aging: a refusal to let go. You and your sister have to try to persuade them that you are there for them in case they are unable to make decisions for themselves. This is not easy. Parents find it difficult to reverse roles with their children. You must present them with potential situations requiring fast decisions, such as emergency medical needs. This can get the ball rolling to where you can extend it to money management as well. Also, try to get them to visit several retirement communities to see that they are a good alternative to living alone. Good luck!

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