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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published November 12 2011

Minding Our Elders: Mom moving in gives daughter second thoughts

Dear Carol: My mother has been declining over the last two years so I’ve decided to bring her home to live with me.

Years ago, she made me promise never to put her in a nursing home, so I’m trying to follow her wishes. I’m not married don’t have children, so it seemed logical that I could take care of her. However, I love my job and it’s very time consuming. I’m suddenly second-guessing myself. I find I am very stressed and getting depressed about this change.

I have no family to help, so I think this is the right decision. Yet, I’m in my 60s, and find that after a hard day at my job I am tired. I have been with Mom unfailingly for several years, visiting and making sure that she has received the best of care when she’s been hospitalized or in rehab.

I know she appreciates me. How long can I go on with work demands, my own health issues and still care for Mom in my home? I’m already getting counseling. – Jolene

Dear Jolene: I’m glad you are getting counseling. Please keep that up. Also, consider hiring some in-home agency care for backup. She may enjoy adult day care a couple of days a week, as well, because that will give her a social life with peers. Many elders resist the idea of attending adult day care, but then end up loving it once they start attending.

Please understand that most assisted living facilities and nursing homes are no longer the model that your mother remembers. Because of the demands from residents and their families, many nursing homes, with time, have changed considerably. While few elders choose to leave their own homes without a nudge, many eventually realize that the new culture of many of today’s nursing homes can give them safety and care, plus a social life with peers that they may not have had at home.

If your arrangement at home doesn’t work out, and you must place your mom in a facility, you are still honoring the spirit of your promise. You will have done your best to keep her with you.

What you are trying to do now amounts to an experiment. With you at work for long hours, the situation may become unsafe for your mom, and very lonely, as well. You’ll have to see how it goes.

Do remember that you can’t help your mom for long if your own health deteriorates. Continued counseling should help you find the right balance between your mom’s needs and your own.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.