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January 26, 2009
When Mom Wants to Break Up Your Relationship

January 5, 2009
When the Inevitable Moving Day Comes for Mom and Dad

December 15, 2008
Running Ragged in Caregiving Runaround

December 1, 2008
Getting a Handle on Your Own Stress

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Posted: August 23, 2004

Practical Caregiving

Parents: Stories Differ, but the Worry is the Same

Our parents are always a concern when they are getting older, but the situations vary so much. Loretta wonders if her parents should continue wintering in Arizona . Roberta and her husband moved her mother in with them, but now she is having second thoughts. It's always frustrating.

From my brimming e-mailbag, here are their stories ? and my replies.


Dear Jean :

I need to decide what to do, if anything, about my parents. Mom is 85 and still in reasonably good health. Dad is 89 and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. So far he just gets very confused and doesn't remember to do things. He is totally dependant on my mother.

They are Snow Birds and live in Illinois during the summer where we live. My problem is that neither of them has any business driving out of town. Dad is a horrible driver and must have Mom navigate totally for him. She drives at times but is a very nervous driver. Mom hates to fly. What can I do to keep them from driving to Arizona this winter?

Loretta A, Peoria, Illinois

Dear Loretta :

For several years my uncle and I took turns driving Mom and Dad to their destinations. A lot of other adult children with elderly parents do the same thing. Is it possible for you (or a relative or friend) to drive your parents to Arizona in the fall and then fly back? In the spring, could you fly down and drive them back?

If you find a way to get them to Arizona for the winter, make a special point to talk to their friends and those living close to them. Ask them to keep an eye on your parents for you. Give them a card with your name and telephone number and ask them to call you collect if they suspect any problems. Also put your contact information several places in their home. If your parents have been going to the same place for several years, they will have many friends there. I found that in retirement areas everyone watches out for each other. They all know they are older, may have problems and need help. It is kind of like having a second home.

I hope this works out as well for you as it did for me and my parents. I enjoyed the trips, and they enjoyed showing me around the country. We became closer as adults.


Dear Jean :

Mom has dementia, and we moved her into our home on Monday. It's been so stressful. I feel like I have to choose between my husband and my Mom. He is supportive, but last night he looked stressed. I am not sure how long I can handle this. This was the only way we could think of to take good care of Mom. I want to help her, but on the other hand, I don't. I feel so guilty and torn. Is there anything I can do to make things better?

Roberta S. , Anchorage , Alaska

Dear Roberta :

Taking care of your parent in your own home is stressful, but at first it is more stressful because you all have to make major adjustments. Your feelings of guilt are normal. You want to take care of your mother, but on the other hand you don't want to take care of her. You want your life to continue the way it has for quite a while, and you don't want your mother to need someone to take care of her. She has always been your mother and you obviously don't want to have that change. It is changing, though, and now you are turning into the mother instead of the daughter. Try not to feel bad because you feel this way. It's normal!

Why don't you sit down with your husband and discuss the situation now that your mother has moved in. Tell him exactly how you feel and ask him to be honest with you about his feelings. Perhaps part of his stress is coming from seeing you so stressed out.

Taking care of your mother is something that could bring you and your husband closer rather than drive you apart. Communication is one of the keys to retaining the relationship you have. Another thing you should do is plan nights out. You and your husband should go out together once a week or as often as you can. You need the time together as well as the time away from your mother.

Is there a church you attend or other organization that might have people willing to sit with your mother while you are out? There will be times when you do have to choose between your mother and your husband, but he needs to know that he will always remain first in your heart and that this is all temporary.

You and your husband also need to sit down with your mother and discuss things. She will probably understand more than you think she will. I'm quite sure she feels like she shouldn't be living with you and your husband. You need to emphasize to her that you both want her there and that it is her home, also.

She needs to feel like she is a part of your lives. Include her in everything you can without putting a wedge between you and your husband. Also, what about getting help for your mother through a meals-on-wheels type of organization? Is there a senior day care close to you that she could attend? She would develop friends there and feel more at home. And you can get a break!

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