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Posted: November 22, 2004

Practical Caregiving

She Should-a, Could-a, and Would-a . . .
But Didn't and Now Regrets Her Decision

We all wish we would have done at least one ?something? different in our past, but we learn from that experience and go forward.

Angie feels she made a mistake in not insisting that her mother move into an assisted living facility a few years earlier. Should she have insisted? Why don't you review her story and my response, and then think what you would have done.

Dear Jean:

I am an only child, and Mom lives alone in another city. Her brother lives close to her and has been checking on her every day. Mom has been getting more confused, but she hasn't seemed bad enough to need assisted living. On Saturday, my uncle called with absolutely horrible news. Mom fell and couldn't get up. She lay there several hours before he came to check on her. She broke her hip! Now I need to get her into a home.

All this time I wanted to do what was best for her. If only I had insisted on her moving to an assisted living facility here earlier, she might not have broken her hip. I could have insisted that she come here and look at the various places available, but I didn't. I feel soooo guilty. Will you please tell others not to make the same mistakes I made?

Angie W., St. Louis

Dear Angie:

I'm sorry to hear about your mother. It isn't your fault, though. There is no way you can see what will happen in the future. You did your best to do what was right. Your uncle was checking on her, and he called when there was a problem. That's what should have happened.

No one can live their life worrying about what might happen. None of us would do anything, if that was the way we thought. We wouldn't drive a car because we might be in an accident. We wouldn't cross a street because we might get hit by a car. We wouldn't eat in a restaurant because we might get bad food. We simply wouldn't do anything -- but worry.

From what I have seen happen with other people in your situation, your mother quite probably would not have agreed to move into any kind of assisted living facility in your city. She has family and friends in her city, and probably wouldn't have agreed to move away from them. She had been independent all her life, and she didn't want to give that up.

I am sure she has talked about moving to where you are with other people, but it seemed like something far in the future. As long as she could prepare her own food, clean her own house and take care of everything she didn't feel the need to move. In fact, that's how we all feel.

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking someone should do something simply because of their age. I once heard a report on the radio about a high school student who had the classic signs of a heart attack, but the doctor didn't check for that because the boy was so young. But he was having a heart attack.

I also saw doctors make the mistake of not wanting to treat my father because of his age. Other doctors treated him, and he continued living a good life for many years. In reality, some people die in their 20's, some in their 50's and some in their 100's. You simply can't decide that someone should do something based on their age. You need to take other aspects of their life into consideration.

What I am trying to say is that you made a decision based on how your mother was doing at the time. You couldn't see the future. You made a good decision. Anyone can have an accident, and that's exactly what happened to your mother. Her falling was nothing that could have been predicted and probably not prevented. You hear about people falling in assisted living facilities and nursing homes all the time. There is no way to prevent someone from falling by putting them in an assisted living facility or a nursing home.

So, please stop blaming yourself for what happened to your mother. I'm sure you wanted her to live a good life, a happy life and independent life as long as possible. You were thinking of her best interest.

But now the real work begins: You must make arrangements for her to live in a place where she will be happy and safe. If she moves into an assisted living facility, she might feel freer than she has because they do take some of the burden of her care off her shoulders.

When you discuss this with her, stress that aspect instead of her having to move into an assisted living facility thinking it is because she isn't safe at home alone any longer. Stress that she will meet people and socialize more than she has for years. Stress that it's kind of like a big college dorm with friends all around. Stress the good instead of the bad.

I wish you the best with your mother.

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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