Dear Carol: I’m retired, divorced and was in decent health and looking forward to some travel in my future until my widowed 93-year-old mother’s health began to seriously deteriorate. I moved across the country, away from my kids and grandkids, to temporarily live with Mom so that I could get her health on track. That hasn’t happened.
She can barely walk, she’s chronically confused and she needs oxygen for COPD. After living with her for nearly a year, my own health is shot. I’ve gained a lot of weight from stress eating. My knees are screaming at me, my blood pressure is through the roof and I live with migraines. I told my two sisters who’ve always been too busy to help that I need to put Mom in a nursing home because I can’t do this anymore. While they used to ignore me, now they email me, call me and text me nasty messages saying that I’m giving up on Mom. I’ve stopped answering them, but it hurts to have them say these nasty things to me. What do I do now? — HD.
Dear HD: You have my complete support and sympathy. You’ve sacrificed a great deal, even leaving your home near your kids and grandkids in order to take care of your mom and all you're getting from your sisters is disrespect and abuse. That’s unconscionable.
Your sisters seem to have done nothing to show that they have a clue, though they likely know how hard this must be. Since they aren’t concerned enough about your welfare or your mom's to contribute even minimally, they have little or no say in your future plans for your mom.
I’m taking a hard line because, while I’m aware that some people for legitimate reasons can’t contribute to parent care, the fact that your sisters are abusing you for saying that you can’t continue on like this is too much. What you need to do is find a care home for your mom, preferable one close to your chosen home and near your kids and grandkids so that you serve as your mom's advocate and visit as your own health allows.
Let your siblings know that this is what will happen and continue to ignore any comments that are less than supportive. You can tell them that if they want to show up and assist they are welcome, but I wouldn’t count on their support.
Because this move will be stressful and require some knowledge of how to move an elder like your mom, I’d suggest that you hire an aging care professional (aginglifecare.org) in your preferred city. They are skilled in helping with such moves, as well as in finding and setting up facility care.
I hope that you can navigate through this with no guilt. You need to take care of yourself for your own future, of course, but also so that you can continue to help your mom in this new way. Best wishes.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.