Minding Our Elders: Feeling torn between children and eldercareDEAR CAROL: My mother, who is in her early 70s, suffers from advanced multiple sclerosis. She lives with me, my husband of three years, and my stepdaughter. Mom’s mentally fine, but physically she needs a lot of care which includes lifting and continence issues.
By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM
DEAR CAROL: My mother, who is in her early 70s, suffers from advanced multiple sclerosis. She lives with me, my husband of three years, and my stepdaughter. Mom’s mentally fine, but physically she needs a lot of care which includes lifting and continence issues. I’m 37 years old and would really like to have a baby. My husband would, too, but he is afraid that I can’t handle a pregnancy and second child as well as care for mom and our daughter. We need my income from my part-time job, so quitting that isn’t an option. I hate to change the arrangement we have with Mom. Her needs are increasing, so even with some daytime in-home care, I need to do a lot for her evenings and weekends. I suppose my husband is right, but I guess I need to hear it from someone else. Is having another baby and keeping Mom with us to much? Sandra
DEAR SANDRA: I was a caregiver for multiple elders while caring for my own two children, though none of our elders lived with us. That was hard enough. What you are considering sounds nearly impossible if you want to do well by everyone, including yourself.
You mentioned that your mom is cognitively in good shape. It seems to me she’d understand your dilemma and be willing to move to assisted living, or more likely due to her needs, a nursing home. If she lives in a facility near you, then visiting her often would not be too hard on you. Under these conditions, you’d still be able to help her, but you’d have more time for your husband, your stepdaughter and eventually your new baby, not to mention your job. Also, the time you did spend with your mom could be quality time as a daughter rather than exhausting yourself with the routines of physical care.
It’s likely that your mom may initially resist such a change, but she could eventually grow to enjoy the social stimulation of having other adults around and a chance to take part in some activities. Also, I believe that in her heart she wouldn’t want you to give up the chance to have another child because she needs extensive care. Once she adjusts to a move, she’ll probably realize that.
Most likely, your mom’s care will eventually become too difficult for you to handle at home anyway, but if you wait to make a change until that time, you may find it more difficult to conceive a child.
Many decisions in life demand that we make painful choices. You face displeasing your mother and possibly enduring some unearned guilt. However, you will likely face more heartbreak down the road if you become pregnant and then have difficulties with the pregnancy because you are doing too much.
You may want to ask the opinion and support of your spiritual leader or even see a professional counselor to help you work through this complicated situation.
Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.