It's time to admit that having my elderly mother move in with my family was probably not the best solution. No one seems content with the arrangement, not mom, not my child and certainly not me. Honestly, our relationship has nearly always been problematic. Looking back, I wonder how I believed that having mom move in was the best option.
Arguments, poor communication and emotional distance was unfortunately, the norm.
When my mother's health began declining, I became concerned about her living situation. She did not seem capable of maintaining her home and the clutter was becoming a problem. She often forgot to take her medications and was not eating well. She lived a distance from relatives and did not have a care network. She had some resources but would run through retirement assets quickly in an assisted living facility. The "sensible" thing to do seemed to be to sell her home and move mom into our first floor guest room. So, with a lot of hope and the best of intentions, we made the move.
Things started out ok. Mom was happy to be with family and grateful that I had helped her to make some very difficult decisions. However, it wasn't long before my mom began missing her home of over 40 years and grieving her loss of privacy and independence. She had difficulty transitioning to new physicians, new grocery store, new library---basically nothing compared favorably to her old life. She found fault with just about everything and soon, everyone. As months went by, she let go of her "filter" and began criticizing and nitpicking. I understood that my mother was frustrated and had no other outlet for her emotions. However, the negativity was extremely difficult for everyone in the household. Out of desperation, I sought the advice of a social worker to help me find workable solutions. It was not inexpensive, but well worth the investment. As a result of her advice, I began to implement some changes that have made a difference in our daily lives.
1) I worked to find outlets for mom's emotions that were productive. I consulted with my mother's physician and obtained a referral to a licensed psychologist who specialized in geriatrics. I was pleasantly surprised when my mother agreed that speaking with a professional about her anxiety would be a good thing. Through some research, I discovered that the county senior services organization funded transportation services in our area. Mom did not have to remain home bound while I was working! She could participate in group shopping trips and other activities. So far, she has not taken advantage of this opportunity but its nice to know that it is available. I also plan to have a Pastor from a nearby church come visit Mom. Perhaps, after a meeting, she will feel comfortable with the idea of venturing out to a new church.
2) I registered with a Home Care Company for respite support. With the assistance of our social worker, I got mom to agree to help me interview Home Care agencies and select one for services, as needed. An In-Home Care company can provide services ranging from companionship to full, round the clock personal care. Our social worker thought that it would be important to have professional caregivers available to us in the event of an emergency such as hospitalization. I recently went away for the weekend and it was wonderful to have the agency caregiver come over to check on mom and provide some companionship.
3) Established some ground rules regarding privacy concerns and financial issues. Our social worker urged us to come together as a family and agree on some basic ground rules. She urged us to get mom's input and to make sure her needs were considered. It turned out that one of mom's chief concerns was that she be able to sleep in until 9 am or so most days. Her first floor bedroom did not afford her the privacy she needed. Fortunately, that was an easy fix for us----simple switching of rooms. For me, a hot button item involved contribution to household expenses. Mom seemed to think that her living with us did not appreciably add to our expenses. Growing up, Mom had always managed the family budget and was a "numbers" person. I decided to put together a detailed spreadsheet to help her understand the situation. It helped and we were able to agree on her monthly contribution for living expenses.
4) Planning for the future. This topic is the next one on our agenda to tackle and it's a whopper.. What will we do when Mom gets to a point that requires more care than I can manage on my own? Who will pay for those costs? What if expensive modifications are necessary for my home in order to keep mom safe? Our social worker has suggested that we meet with an elder attorney to mediate this issue and to draw up written agreements.
Having my mother live with us remains a great challenge. I am not entirely sure I would make the same decision again. However, I do see some improvements in the situation that give me hope. Obtaining some professional, expert guidance has made all the difference in the world. If you decide to embark on this journey, do the research and go in with your eyes and mind wide open!
Easy Living Services, Inc. had been serving the metro Atlanta area since 1994 with outstanding caregiver services. For more information call us at 770-442-8664 or visit us online at: www.easylivingservices.com