A new member question from Ask the Doctor.
A member wrote to Dr. Warren:
My mother lives about 45 minutes away. She is
in good health but is hard of hearing. With the shut-down I have been
visiting her and bringing her food and her medicines. To make it
easier for all of us, I have invited her to stay with me and my
family. We have a nice room for her and she has stayed with us in the
past. This time, she refuses and wants to remain at her own place.
It’s been difficult as I have to balance my work and picking up my
daughter at school and run errands and have time to swing down to
check in on mom. What should I do as I am exhausted all the time.
Dr. Warren replied:
Thanks for asking a great question, one that no doubt many families are dealing with. I think there are 3 important things to consider: 1. What are the tradeoffs? 2. Is there a middle ground that would work better? and 3. Is it clear that the current situation is no longer an option?
- What are the tradeoffs? It sounds like your mother is ok with the “New Normal” but you are totally exhausted (45 minutes each way is a lot of time.) One question is the severity of COVID-19 in your communities. If there are many cases, your mother may actually be socially distancing herself. Are there any young children in your household? On the flipside, a much more sustainable plan, and one that might be better for her, is to have your mother come stay with you. Change is hard, is there something in specific that your mother prefers about living where she does? Is there something that would make her more interested in the move?
- Is there a middle ground? Your mother sounds fairly capable. Would doing errands every other day or twice a week be sufficient? Have you considered Meals on Wheels? This is an entitlement plan which means that your mother doesn’t need to be poor to qualify for meals. The Area Office on Aging is aware of available services close by. n4a.org
- Is the current situation no longer an option? It’s a stressful situation for everyone when “Mom” can’t call the shots anymore. At a certain point, the nature of the relationship between a parent and adult children changes. Seniors do not want to lose the dignity of making their own decisions. In these situations, avoid YES/NO questions because the answer is almost always “No, I won’t!!”. Instead, offer acceptable options. For instance, in your mother’s situation the options might be: “Would you like to try Meals On Wheels or would you like to stay with us for a while?” Acknowledge that change is hard and the options not perfect. As much as possible point out that something is being tried for a period of time, not a permanent direction.
I know I don’t have the answers, only general suggestions. Solutions are usually found in the details. In the meantime, take a deep breath and take care of yourself. Then, problem solve with a clear mind; don’t let the problem overwhelm you. The solutions are seldom perfect but are the best possible. Continuing an unsustainable course is by definition, unsustainable. I’d like to hear back from you and find out what happened!!
Be Connected, Stay Strong
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