Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mother --- the next chapter

It has been awhile since I blogged about my mother.  She celebrated her 85th birthday on November 15th - alone in Yountville - how she wants it, because she doesn't want any of her friends to know "how old she really is".  We now respect her wishes (paranoia) and don't even think of throwing a party to celebrate milestone occasions like turning eighty-five.  

My heart is in turmoil - emotions all mixing together inside - frustration, anger, helplessness, anxiety, admiration, and a deep longing to know that she is safe and not knowing where to start and what to do. 

Mother is still living in the little house we purchased 2-1/2 years ago when she moved from the big house.  My long-time blog friends may recall that Mother is functionally blind as a result of macular degeneration.   She has recently been diagnosed with glaucoma.  Macular degeneration destroys the central vision - glaucoma, the peripheral vision.    It is now a matter of time - unless they can halt the glaucoma.   I fear she is not taking the eye drops - recently she stopped taking the blood pressure meds (AGAIN) and had the 200/250 BP at her appointment.

Mom is getting weaker - less able to get around - more tentative.  Since she cannot see, there are many things that just aren't as clean and tidy.  The fridge often contains spoiled food - and not just a small amount either. 

She has an incontinence problem and often you get a whiff of urine.  She doesn't eat properly and often has diarrhea - you can imagine the result of that.   She is often confused and yet, she has adapted so well that unless you spend a bit of time with her you would not know.
She refuses to have a regular cleaning person - let alone a weekly companion/housekeeper.  She is competent and yet is on the edge.  There is a wonderful person that I pay to go visit once a week or so to help with bills and such - but that is touch and go (Mom has no idea she is paid).  Mom really likes Cathi but is fiercely guarding her independence; I understand as well I can from my 20 years younger perch.  "Independence" - what is that?  Safety - Health - Companionship  - I am so conflicted.  
It is very difficult - time to ponder the next steps.  Any thoughts??

PS Mom can afford household help - a companion, etc.  So it is not about money.  :_(


  1. No advice but just it's a very hard time. Sometimes kids have to take legal responsibility for their parents which means forcing choices upon them. That's soooo hard. It's just sad that we don't all realize, when we get old and have lost faculties, that we need to take responsible steps. Some of us do and some not. When it gets to a certain level, the children must take over but it's a bitter experience on both ends. :(

  2. I fortunately haven't experienced this with my own mom yet (and hopefully won't for many years), but my family is constantly going through some version of this with my 90 year old grandmother. It's been a terrible struggle over the years to get her to accept very essential help with meals, cleaning, medications, etc. In her case, the family had to sort of force it on her, as she just wasn't capable of safely staying in her home without it. The family basically sat her down and told her (as nicely as possible) that if she didn't accept help in the house they would have to put her in a nursing home. It was rough at the time, but my grandma did eventually accept the help out of recognition that it was still better than giving up her home.

    Thinking of you and hoping that you find an easy way through this difficult process.

  3. I found you through Solitary Diners blog, and your post really struck a chord and I feel your struggle.

    My Gran is 95 and currently in the hospital. She is the most fierce, stubborn and independant person I have ever met in my entire life.

    Unfortunately she had to be placed into a nursing home a few years back following a bad fall at home. I think my family will always regret not having a conversation with her to try and get her more help at home, or to go into a nursing home of her own free will. She left her home and never got to say goodbye to it.

    There is no right thing to do and whatever course of action you take you will feel guilty, but you just hope that your Mom will know that it is only because you care.

  4. the way you describe her fierce independence makes me think of fear of letting go and acknowledging that trade off that we have to do/need to do/is made for us when we get older. it can be so hard to let go of doing for yourself. it closes a door to independence and opens the one marked "burden" in the mind of the person standing between.

    i like your idea of the paid companion that she doesn't know is paid. subterfuge is so kind when dealing with someone who isn't ready to surrender. maybe this person could stop by more often. "worry" a little more, like do twice week blood pressure readings there at home. insinuate herself a little more, as much as your mother allows. i'm not sure of the dynamic established by this paid helper, but maybe twice a week? she could ask for your mother's stories, things she likes to talk about.

    i don't know if any of this will help. i just know that taking over your mother's life forcefully, forcing her into a care situation that will make her feel belittled will cause both of you anguish. yet she needs to be watched over and cared for. i do not envy you your situation. my parents died with i was young. in impossible situations though i usually lead with my heart. maybe if your mother could be talked to by you, you could tell her your worries. come at her as her daughter rather than her care-giver. let her help with the decisions.

    i'm sorry, Suzann. it's all i have to offer. i wish you peace.

  5. Oh dear Suzann,
    I call you dear because we have shared and I we will do in the future as well both good times and the worst ...

    I think: My Mother is now 92. She has lived her life. She is more interesting in watching TV when we do visit her than talking with us....
    Then I think: Let her do have her life.
    She lives in a medicare home. Has her own room and fridge and restroom etc...
    I'm unable to make her younger - and she will do what she prefers. I do not want do dispute with my old Mother - it's waist of time anyway...

    hugs across the Pond

  6. i found your blog via Rain. I feel for your predicament -- all too common. Usually it comes to a big crisis and that moves the decisions along. My grandmother (89) recently was essentially forced by her kids to sell the house and move in with them. She's unhappy about it wants to return home (which is no longer hers) but cannot. She simply cannot live alone any longer because she cannot care for herself and falls a lot. She is unhappy but safer now.

    It makes me realize I need to have this conversation with my children. What to do when you feel Mom is deeply in trouble?

    Best wishes.

  7. p.s.

  8. You do have difficult circumstances that are complicated because of the absence of open, straight forward communication between you and your mother about the situation.

    I can only relate that my mother was legally blind from the time she was in her fifties. She lost some central vision for reasons medical specialists could never really diagnose. Subsequent years she developed macular degeneration and by the time she died at almost 90 yrs she was virtually blind. She wanted to be independent and my goal was to help her remain so.

    We always had open discussions about her situation and my gradual assuming ways to help her was welcomed. Fortunately, she wanted to continue to do as much for herself as she could, but realistically recognized her limitations so would ask for help if needed. I continually reinforced to her in our discussions that I wanted to help her remain independent, but needed to be sure she would be safe and healthy, so she must help me, and herself, by being honest with me. (There weren't nearly the services available to foster independence as there are today.)

    (I didn't have to do resort to this tactic, but if it had been needed, I might have said that if something happened to her I wasn't aware of, authorities might step in and could even cite me for not caring properly for her.)

    There's so much more I could say. Perhaps I'll write a future piece on my blog about the topic.

    Meanwhile, email me at if you'd like to discuss further. I can only share my experience and some overall thoughts that could apply in many situations.