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Elderly Mom Moved In With Us

pokemom1959 Member Posts: 67

Last October my 89 year old mother and 94 year old stepfather moved into assisted living, which was great for my ultra-social mom. Just as she was starting to make friends, my step-dad passed away in November. My mom could not afford to stay in assisted living or really live on her own at all, so she ended moving in with my husband and me in January.

I lost my dad (her ex-husband in January) right after I started chemo. I had 4 chemo treatments and just started 33 radiation treatments. I continue to work full time as an attorney, but am working from home due to the cancer treatment and COVID. My husband works part-time in the mornings and also has his own business which keeps him busy a few hours each weekend and some weekday afternoons/evenings. We are busy.

We grew up in Anaheim, where my mom had tons of friends. She and my stepdad then moved to Palm Springs to start a business. They were so busy with the business, that she did not get a chance to make many friends or socialize much, but that was okay because she and my stepdad were pretty much together full time. A few of her Anaheim friends are still around and live about 30 minutes from us and she has been to visit once or twice since she moved in. Since she has moved in with us, my mom has refused to do anything social or get out of the house other than to occasionally go shopping, a couple of visits to the friends in Anaheim and go to doctor appointments. She spends most of her days sorting through all of the paperwork from their business that they shut down almost 3 years ago.

I'm a very independent person and have fought the apron strings since I left for college when I was 17. Before she moved in with us, we spoke on the phone about once a week and saw each other on holidays and birthdays. My children are out of the house, so my husband and I have a routine that suits both of us - we are very happy. I just grit my teeth now when my mom asks me where I'm going when I leave the house and when I'll be back. I feel like I'm a kid again.

My mom is demanding more attention and is trying to "guilt" me into giving it to her. She tells me how lonely and depressed she is. We've suggested that she got to the local Senior Center to meet people and get involved with some activities. She says she is "not ready." Not to sound selfish, but I feel like I've already turned my life upside down for her. Everywhere my husband and I go, she goes with us. We spent all day with her for Mothers Day and today she tells me how lonely and depressed she is and how she needs me to talk more to her. My day today involved getting up early, taking my dog 30 miles away to a vet, coming back home and working, going to radiation, going back 30 miles to pick up the dog, coming back home and working and then making dinner and I still have work to do this evening.

I'm so frustrated. I understand that she is used to having someone there for her 24/7, but I cannot be that person and I've explained that to her. My brother, who lives about 25 miles away tries to help out on occasion, but he and his wife (both retired) spend most of their days babysitting their grandkids. I feel so bad for my mom, but there is only so much I can do. I'm exhausted from the treatment, continuing to work full time and managing the house. I know she loves me, but she seems quite unconcerned with what I am going through with the cancer treatment.

I think we are going to make her go to the Senor Center. I know she would make friends who are geographically close and would be so much happier. Any other thoughts? I'm quickly approaching my wits end here and its only been 4 months!


  • sunshine99
    sunshine99 Member Posts: 2,699

    pokemom, I'm so sorry. Your situation sounds EXHAUSTING. It must be so hard to watch your once socially active mom become reclusive, for lack of a better word. And relying on you to meet all of her needs can't be good for either of you.

    I think your idea of insisting on the Senior Center sounds like a good idea. I can't imagine having to tell a parent, "Look, I need you to do this (go to the Senior Center), whether you want to or not." It seems like if she did go, she would begin to make friends and may even find some new hobbies to occupy her time.

    When I look at your bio, I see you've been dealing with cancer since 2013. I wish had a perfect piece of advice for you, but all I can say is to try to take care of YOU. She's your mom - I get that. You have my sympathy.


  • obsolete
    obsolete Member Posts: 333

    Hi PokeMom, so sorry about the recent loss of your dad and your BC recurrence. The timing is very unfortunate that all these burdens are suddenly in your life simultaneously. I agree your #1 priority has got to be you & your healing during your treatments and also in your foreseeable future. Healing from a BC recurrence is much more demanding. You need your own down time and your own private outlets to destress, for yoga, meditation, nature walks, etc

    And how does your brother get a free pass? It requires effective "team work" to care for the elderly. Administering the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social welfare of an emotionally fragile elderly parent is a humongous responsibility. It's time for your retired brother or another family member to step up to the plate because a breast cancer patient simply cannot be all that your Mom requires. It's perhaps time for a family meeting with a social worker to arbitrate and navigate all available options.

    If your Mom isn't able to independently manage her time with her own social & recreational activities, during the interim, then perhaps senior group counseling or social services would be helpful.

    Social work, volunteer work, church activities, etc. might interest your Mom?

    I'm amazed at your strength and fortitude. You're obviously the generous "service to others" type, as opposed to being "service to self". But you truly cannot help others to heal emotionally until you have first healed yourself, but you clearly already recognize this. Wishing you and your family the best.

    Again, my deepest condolences... hugs to you during your healing.

  • WC3
    WC3 Member Posts: 658


    It sounds like your mother lones not just for other people, but for those who are familiar to her specifically, and it is you to whom she is closest. Is it possible for your mother to spend a few days a week at your brother's regulary and help with the babysitting? Interacting with the kids might lift her spirits.

  • lw422
    lw422 Member Posts: 1,410

    Pokemom--I'm sorry for both your mother and you. I imagine your mother is still in mourning after the loss of her husband... and in effect, her life. I'm sure she's lonely and sad, and probably feels like a burden to you. I know it's hard to deal with but so many things in life are just freakin' HARD. I don't have any advice for you but I know how difficult it is to keep juggling all those unwanted responsibilities. Good luck to you and I hope things work out for you and for your mom.

  • ctmbsikia
    ctmbsikia Member Posts: 758

    Sorry for your situation. It's hard for me to render an opinion or give any advice to you as I don't understand how she couldn't afford assistant living any longer, yet cannot live alone? I certainly understand if you don't answer with more detail on that. I will just say that at 89 she could be having some cognitive decline. Sometimes the changes in her abilities are so subtle it can go un-noticed for years. Then when something happens (like the death of a spouse) it becomes more apparent. It could be more than just grief that is keeping her from being more social. Demanding that she go to the Senior Center may back fire, but certainly worth a try. Perhaps a part time care-taker, or just a person to sit with her and visit.

    Taking care of an elderly parent, whether healthy, or in diminished capacity is very different because we now have become the parent. My mother was diabetic with other health issues and she had what we thought was "some dementia" --yet it wasn't until my father dropped dead on the floor that we realized just how bad off she was. My father was stellar in taking care of her. I was the sibling that filed for FMLA and stayed with her after that until we figured out things. I hope you can figure this out too. Believe me, it is hard. My best wishes to you.

  • pokemom1959
    pokemom1959 Member Posts: 67

    Thank you all for your kind words, your understanding and your suggestions. My husband is actually taking her to the Senior Center today so we will see how that goes. Knowing her personality, I think she will make friends and be happy going there a few days a week to socialize once she gets into the swing of it.

    My brother is around, but he babysits his grandchildren at a location that is over an hour away from us. It's a long drive for my mom to make. I've got him trying to do something with her at least once a week. There is no other family - pretty much just the 2 of us to care for her. His house is not a place where she could live as he has a large dog that would be difficult for her to be around.

    CTM - While my stepfather was alive, they were getting his veteran's benefits as well as both of their social security payments. Once he passed, the veterans benefits available to her and the MediCare payment she received were drastically reduced. She has no savings or other income and with those 2 payments, it was not enough to pay for the expensive assisted living. She is pretty self-sufficient and does not really need "assisted living" (although her late husband did) - but with her income (she loses the veterans benefits if she is not in or does not qualify for assisted living, she cannot afford a place of her own (plus utilities, food, etc.). The gap between her income and what she would need is too great for my brother and I to cover.

    I am just going to have to try to explain to her why things have to be the way they are right now and hope and pray that she finds friends at the Senior Center.

  • parakeetsrule
    parakeetsrule Member Posts: 605

    It might help to look into home care and companions. Someone or several people who can come and spend time with her at home one on one. She's getting to an age where she won't be able to keep driving and maintaining a social life on her own anyway. Does the senior center have a shuttle that can pick her up? One of my neighbors was picked up several times a week by his center and his wife stayed home. Or maybe another member? Hopefully she'll make some friends there!

    I get why it's bugging you but it's a totally normal thing for family members who live together to tell each other their comings and goings. When she's asking where you're going and when you're coming back, why not just tell her? Or tell her only as much as you're willing to share. "errands, be back in an hour" instead of "You're driving me nuts and I need more liquor and weed" for example.

  • dres123
    dres123 Member Posts: 45

    I really empathize for the situation you're in. I have been there, and am there right now to a large extent.

    Here's the thing that has helped me--don't let outward pressures of expectations or socially induced guilt guide your decisions with caretaking. Do what is best for you and what you know in your heart to be the right thing. That might mean caretaking 24/7, it might mean placing your mom in assisted living, it might mean taking a break from it all entirely. I've heard many stories and have experienced it in my own family where people who make these decisions out of guilt or some expectation that doesn't consider their needs and situation in life, and eventually things don't get any better and they burn out.

    It sucks. But dealing with all of it on top of your cancer diagnosis is very difficult. I know. You have as much a responsibility to take care of yourself (and your happiness) as you do for others.

    Just a thought.

  • serendipity09
    serendipity09 Member Posts: 769

    Pokemom1959 - I can empathize with you on so many levels (except my mother does not live with me.) You need to do what is right for and take care of you. There is nothing wrong with setting healthy boundaries and finding solutions that are going to work best for you so that you can get through your treatments.

    I hope everything works out and that your rads sessions go smoothly for you.

  • hapa
    hapa Member Posts: 613

    Perhaps you can make a trade with your brother: your mom for his dog.

    At least the dog won't ask where you're going.

  • pokemom1959
    pokemom1959 Member Posts: 67

    Hapa - Ha ha! So true!!!

  • pokemom1959
    pokemom1959 Member Posts: 67

    So, I tried talking to my brother tonight - trying to get him to commit to spending time with her at least once a week for more than a couple of hours.

    His response was that his life (and his wife's) revolve around their grandchildren and when his daughter goes back to work in July, he'll have even less time for our mother (I'm not sure how you get much less than he spends now).

    His solution is to have my mother get in her car and drive 45 minutes to his house, arriving before 6:15 a.m. so she can go with him to his daughter's house (another 1/2 hour) to babysit for the day. Even though my mom does still drive (and is still excellent both cognitively and physically), that's a little much to expect from a woman who will be 90 years old this month.

    He just doesn't care that I've changed my life up 180 degrees to care for my mom or that I'm working full time and going through cancer treatment and still taking care of her 24/7 - he's just focused on his life and what he needs - taking NO responsibility for our remaining parent. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised since he only spent a couple of hours each Sunday with my dad while he was alive.

    I get not wanting to up-end your life, but it's his responsibility too. If he'd just take her somewhere 1 day a week, that would help, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen and I can't force him. I've had such negative experiences in the last couple of months with people who claim to be good Christians - gotta walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

    Going to keep taking her to the senior center until she starts going on her own -- I know she will have fun there if I can just get her familiar with the place and the people. Right now she can drive herself there (it's only about 5 minutes away) and once she can't drive, they do have a shuttle.


  • parakeetsrule
    parakeetsrule Member Posts: 605

    Ugh. I hope your brother realizes he's behaving in a relationship-ending manner. But based on what you've described so far it sounds like he probably doesn't care either way.

    I've heard this story so many times. The male children leave all responsibility for elderly parental care to their female siblings, no matter how much of a hardship it is. Simply because they know (unconsciously or not) that their sisters will do it no matter what. Similar to how so many fathers leave the mothers of their children to do most of child-rearing. They know it will happen even if they don't do it.

    Can your mother take turns living with him? A month with you, a month with him or something? And it's easy for me to say....but can you tell him it's not optional?! "Hey bro, we're going to be switching off months. On July 1 it's your turn, so get your guest bed ready". And then show up with mom on July 1st....

    This is so not fair for you to handle on your own when he's so close and capable.