"right" decision, let alone any decision, can leave us quarreling with
ourselves. Is this best? Are there alternatives? What if I'm wrong?
When these decisions relate to the future care of a parent, the
pressure to make the right decision intensifies. The stakes are high,
but as Arlene in New Mexico finds out in this column, there may be more
than one way to look at a critical issue, and in her case, uprooting
her family may not be the only "right" decision.
Pam's letter also
popped up in my e-mailbag and poses a question of how much information
to share with siblings if you're the primary caregiver for a parent.
Check out my exchange with Pam below.
I am trying to
arrive at a decision regarding my mother who needs help. She can take
care of herself day to day, but one of my sisters has to stay with her
on weekends to make sure she has enough food and that bills are being
paid, etc. My sisters have been making arrangements for my mother to
enter an assisted living facility within a year, and I am torn.
I have always
felt it would be ideal if I could take care of my parents when their
time came. My father suddenly died a couple years ago. It seems my
mother's time has come. Death is not imminent but she is in need of
I feel a very
strong desire to take care of mother, but it would mean moving my
family to a different state to live with her. Fortunately, my mother is
able to afford a top-notch assisted living facility, but in my heart I
want to be able to take care of her in her own home.
I welcome your
thoughts and feedback. Arlene, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I understand your
strong desires to take care of your mother because I had those feelings
myself. However, I didn't have a family in my home to consider. Your
family must come first.
A child is
morally obligated to make sure their parents are well taken care of,
but that does not mean that the child has to physically take care of
them. Let's look at a couple options.
First, try to
determine the real reason behind you considering a move to a different
state to take care of you mother. Is it an emotional desire because you
miss your mother and you don't want her to die, or is it because death
might be the best choice for your mother at this point in her life?
Quite often we have that desire because of our own feelings rather than
actually trying to help our parent. Moving into an assisted living
facility where your sisters and your mother's friends can visit her
might be the best option for your mother.
Here is another
option: Instead of moving your family to your mother's home, can you
consider having your mother move in with you? You have your job, and
your family is settled in today's life in your community. If you aren't
sure it would work, why don't you ask your mother to visit you for a
couple of weeks? That way she can adjust to being with you, and your
family can get better acquainted with her. Then have her come back
again few weeks later.
After that second
visit, you and your family can decide if you think it will work for her
to move in with you. Having Mom and Dad around when my kids were
growing up was a tremendously good influence on my kids. They are not
afraid of "old" people, and today they have compassion for people that
many of their friends don't have.
If your mother
does move in with you, be sure to explain to your children (again and
again) that their Grandma really doesn't want to get old. She would
like to continue being young the rest of her life but she doesn't have
that choice. Not being able to do things the way she used to, or think
the way she used to, is just part of her naturally getting old and
having health problems.
Mom has been
diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and she is also having strokes. I
have two brothers who live over an hour away. The changes I see in Mom
are mostly gradual and I'm not afraid of it. I only feel bad for her
having to go through it. My problem is that I'm not sure how much to
say to my brothers sometimes because one day it will seem that Mom may
not be with us long and then a day later she will rally and seem
better. Pam, Hood River, Oregon
You should be as
honest with your family as possible. Explain to them what you just
explained to me. Always phone them to let them know what the doctor
says, and ask them to talk occasionally with the doctor.
People tend to
get upset easily when their parent might not live much longer. When
they don't see their mother or father very often, they have trouble
accepting what is happening once they realize it. Sometimes they might
even think you are exaggerating and that things aren't the way you are
telling them they are.
You want to make
it as easy for them as possible, and you don't want to do anything to
jeopardize your relationship with them. Try to think of how you would
feel if you lived far away and it was your brother or sister who was
taking care of your parents. How would you want them to treat you and
keep you in the loop? I know you would want to them to be honest with
you. I know you would want to talk to the doctor yourself. In fact,
that's what we all would want. Good luck.