Dear Carol: A while back you wrote about a widower with mild cognitive impairment who wanted to move to assisted living after his wife died. Our situation is similar, but this is my 83-year-old mom and her memory is fine.
Mom's an extremely social person. Dad died just two months ago and already she is telling me that she wants to move to an assisted living place that they once looked at. I get that she misses Dad and she doesn’t like being alone, but I worry that she’s making this change too soon. Some of my reluctance is probably because of the idea of losing Dad and then having my childhood home sold hurts, so it gets confusing. If this move is best for Mom, that’s OK, but I don’t think that I’m off base by being worried that she’s making this major decision too fast. — VF.
Dear VF: I’m sorry about your dad. This is a hard time for both you and your mom. You raise valid concerns about your mom making this decision so soon after losing your dad.
You also show insight in admitting that some of this concern is about you. Losing access to our childhood home can be hard. My thoughts here are not that different than they were in the column you referenced since most people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are still capable of making decisions. So, yes, your mom should be able to determine where she wants to live.
One of the most common issues with newly widowed older adults is that they don’t feel like seeing friends because their spouse, who once was their social partner as well, isn’t there. Your mom seems willing, which is good. Staying in the house may be an overwhelmingly lonely situation for someone with her social nature, so an assisted living facility that offers social interaction and activities could be the perfect path forward for her.
I’d suggest that you research the home, and if there are no red flags, set her up for a move. If you run into issues with this home, expand your search. It’s her life, so involve her in the whole process. This will all take time, which is probably good. Your mom will feel that you are supporting her, yet she has time to back out.
If she still wants to move by the time she has chosen a unit and the financial issues are ironed out, I’d suggest that you cheerfully go along with it, trusting that your mom knows what’s best for her own future. Help her move as many personal items as she can, including meaningful furniture, photos and her own bedding. Then, let her housesit until you see how she adjusts to the change. That can be expensive and inconvenient, but not nearly so much as it would be if she changed her mind and wanted her home back.
I hope that this all works out well for you both.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.