Moving Mom into Your Home
Are You Up for the Challenge?T
he majority of us are getting older and so are our parents. That blasted crystal ball isn’t working very well, and to my knowledge, nobody ever found that fountain of youth either.
Inevitably, we will lose a parent and become concerned about the remaining parent. When that happens, we really have no idea “what to do about Mom.”
We don’t usually extract Mom from her environment unless there is some sort of concern regarding safety or welfare. Maybe Mom isn’t taking care of herself very well; not eating, not going out with friends, not driving, has become lost or disoriented, not calling you or the doctor thinking, “It will go away” or “It’s nothing serious” and she doesn’t “…want to be a bother.” And, if it is serious, we learn about it after the fact when she is in the hospital. Anything can happen, and generally speaking, something does change Mom’s ability to remain in her home alone at some point in her life.
Before you decide to uproot Mom “for her own good” and your peace of mind, some things should be seriously considered. Can she stay in her home with some assistance? Will she need full time care? Can she or you afford the degree of assistance she needs?
If not, are you physically and financially able to care for her if you take her into your home? Do you have, or will you make, the time to see that she leads an active social life? Do you have room to allow her to retain some autonomy? How will the other members of the household be affected?
Once you’ve taken Mom out of her world, besides having some physical needs you must attend to, she most likely has no friends, no social life, can’t drive, can’t go anywhere, and can’t even buy her own groceries. Are you really taking care of Mom? She has no peers, no time with people her own age with common concerns, common memories, and common humor. Have you ever heard a comedian that you didn’t think was funny, yet the crowd around you was rolling in the aisles? Have you heard someone remark how funny the old Saturday Night Live skits were, but the newer ones just aren’t so funny? That’s because the humor was “generation specific.”
No matter how hard you try to keep Mom busy, bring her into your routines, make her a part of your family, she will be missing interaction with people she can relate to, with shared cultural values and experiences. There are reasons each generation has their own music, memories of “our song” that brings a smile to our faces and enriches our lives.
What makes you think Mom wants to only be a part of your life and leave hers completely behind? How many years of her life did she have before you were that proverbial “twinkle in the eye?” She cannot share that pre-you with you or her grandchildren in the same way she can share it with her peers, laughing over lunch, a game of Bridge or Pinochle.
If you are “doing the right thing” by taking Mom in, think about her needs! Make sure she is as engaged as she can possibly be in the outside world. You don’t keep your children home, doing nothing, experiencing nothing new. Why would you have Mom stay at home, experiencing nothing new? She needs exercise, she needs stimulation, and she needs to continue with her life. When you take Mom in, consider the added responsibility you are assuming and recognize that Mom must be more than a dog sitter when you go out of town, or help in the kitchen if she likes to cook.
Many of us Baby Boomers had stay-at-home mothers while our fathers worked. Then, at some point, maybe even Mom got a job, and who took care of us then? Grandma? Auntie? Usually someone female who was at home to take care of us. It’s not surprising we have it in our heads that women as they age want to stay home.
Mom had a name before she was “Mom.” Her friends never called her “Mom.” She needs to be Ruth, Linda, Susan, or Patty, not necessarily does she need to be only “Mom” again. Before Mom was Mom, back when she was Betty, did she ride horses? Bicycle? Hike? Dance? Garden? What did Betty do? It is easy to lose sight of this in our urgent or dutiful feelings of “needing to take care of Mom now.”
How about Dad? Dad worked, retired, and then what did Dad do? Did he go fishin’, “hang out” with his guy friends, watch or play sporting games, golf, go hunting? What did Dad do? The key is to keep Mom and Dad healthy and happy by ensuring they are doing whatever they can, and not doing it only at home. This is the responsibility you assume when you take in parents and loved ones. Are you up for the challenge?