Janette feels completely torn. Her mother, who lives an hour away, is ill and refuses home help. Janette (name changed to protect her identity) visits weekly and does a lot of chores for her. She feels a sense of duty, especially as two of her siblings do not wish to be involved in their mom’s care at all.
At the same time, Janette’s business is growing rapidly and she needs to move out of state to keep the momentum. Lots of jobs depend on her being more closely involved in day-to-day operations. Her business partner is begging her to come to the main business location asap. She can no longer be an out of state partner.
She feels guilty at the prospect of leaving her mother, even though her mother was not a good parent and has mental illness as well as other physical problems. It’s not as if her mother particularly appreciates her help either. But she needs it and won’t allow very many people to even enter her apartment, in a seniors’ complex. Janette is under pressure to make a decision.
When Janette came to AgingParents.com with her dilemma, we spent a lot of time going over every option. As it turns out, one of her sisters lives close to their mother’s residence and she is able to attend to some of mom’s needs. Jennifer, the sister, is able to handle their mom with much less emotion. She is not a business owner and is less filled with conflict, but she also does less for their mother. If mom refuses help, Jennifer doesn’t push it the way Janette has done. Janette very much wants to make her mother’s life better. She has offered assisted living, home care workers, and even to move mom out of state with her. Mom refuses all of this.
We advised her that although her offers would undoubtedly make her mother’s life better from Janette’s point of view, Janette does not have the right (legally or otherwise) to force her mother to make her own life better. Or safer. Or less isolated. Part of the value of an objective point of view is that it can help a person who may be struggling with a decision. Janette was definitely struggling. When she mulled it over, talked it over and came up with a plan, she then felt free to go ahead with her move.
The plan she worked out was to have the local folks from the nearby church, which her mother belongs to, check on her mother daily. They often come by and knock on the door but her mother won’t allow them in. They can at least come by every day now and ask if mom is ok and if she answers that she is, that may be all they can do. If she did not respond, they could get the local police to do a welfare check (also called a safety visit). If she were in trouble, they could get an ambulance if needed. Janette will still fly back into town to visit monthly, despite the inconvenience.
Janette was also advised to set up a meeting with her uninvolved siblings, Jennifer and herself to let them know about the move, and the efforts to do some basic things for mom. Jennifer will likely be called on to do more but she won’t mind, Janette says. Mom may allow Jennifer to do the chores Janette was doing. That’s the best Janette can arrange. Accepting help is clearly her mother’s decision.
By getting advice, Janette was able to air her concerns and address feeling guilty. She’ll likely still have to deal with guilt, no matter what, but she now feels clearer and better about moving and doing what is best for her, rather than trying futilely to get mom to change.
When your own life is affected so heavily by aging parent responsibilities, it’s never easy to make a decision that creates guilt. But it may be necessary. Your own well being and sense of peace are important. Janette expressed a feeling great relief. She is working on accepting what her mother has chosen. And her next step was to put her house on the market.
If you are facing a problem like hers, we hope you will also find some relief in making a decision that is right for you. Getting advice from a knowledgable, neutral person can help you figure out a strategy. Seek your own guru and find your way forward.