Meet Ashley, she is 76 years old with 11 kids. For the past three years she has lived in a senior care facility. In those past three years she only been visited by one of her kids, who just happens to be her youngest.
We all have busy lives, and once we get older managing time with kids, work, activities, working out, etc almost seems impossible. So adding visiting your mom to that list becomes a task that usually falls last in the totem pole.
Ashley is not rare, actually her situation is very common. The very moms that raise us, care for us, give us more love than anyone in the planet, usually end up spending their last years in a senior home without the loved ones she helped raised.
So why is this such a common occurrence?
Many of us promised in good faith, back when our parents were healthy, that we wouldn’t ever put them in a nursing home. That would be abandoning them. We aim to care for them ourselves until they die.
Admirable thinking. However, as years go by and care needs mount, we find ourselves faced with the fact that we can’t raise our families, work our jobs and run to Mom and Dad’s condo three times a day.
So, with some guilt, we start looking at other options. For some people, this means having your parents move in with you. If there is enough room so everyone has privacy and the personalities blend, this can work. However, before making such a move, make sure your head is as engaged as your heart.
Another option, though there is some guilt attached, is getting some in-home agency help. Why the guilt? Because you are now sharing the caregiving with someone else. Someone who is not a family member. You are hiring help for your parents. That isn’t what you had in mind for them, but they are not safe alone all day, and you can’t be there all the time. You have to do something.
Then the day comes where in-home care can’t handle all of their needs. Adult day care can’t take care of them. Only one choice remains, and that is a nursing home.The same guilty feelings are often attached to adult day care. Adult day care can be a wonderful choice for many seniors, as they get care and supervision, plus peer interaction and activities more stimulating than watching TV all day. But, this too means you are turning over some of the care to strangers. You were going to handle it all yourself. You told them you would. And now? You can’t. You need help.
Cheryl E. Woodson, MD (and caregiving daughter) wrote a wonderful book titled “To Survive Caregiving.” One of the most important things Woodson says is that, while you may have to “break your promise” – you know, the one you should never have made – and put your parent in a nursing home, you have still honored the spirit of the promise.
I loved the way she put that. None of us knows the future. Our healthy parents have visions of nursing homes decades ago, and the very idea of living in one is unthinkable to them. You tend to agree. Yet, now the day has come where Mom is incontinent, confused and paranoid. She has wandered away from home twice, and once you had to call the police. Dad had a stroke and needs a lift to get him out of bed and two strong people to get him into his wheelchair. You’ve run up against a brick wall. There is no choice but a nursing home.