You’re WHAT? A Talk With Elderly ParentsMay 9th, 2010 | By Jeannine Becker | Category: For Senior Women
They started talking the other day…to me…about moving. I am 68 and the thought of moving does some very uncomfortable things to my innards. Dad is 94 and his wife, our second mom, is 82 and they are talking about moving half way across the country. I try to remember what I’ve learned from my hospice sister about the importance of not taking all the control in their lives away from them, about respecting the importance of their sense of self worth and honoring their dignity. I love my parents dearly, enjoy daily caregiving responsibilities with them, and I literally hurt inside when I have to think about them moving 1800 miles away. And I have to think about this every time they bring up the subject of making this move.
So the other day this subject came up with me. They usually reserve this conversation for my sister, the one who started all these discussions a year ago, but they have broached me with it a few times. If I respond supportively, (I think I just created a new word there) they might talk with me again; however if my response feels to them like I am trying to talk them out of it, I don’t hear about the move for a while. I looked for an opportunity to share my concerns and when ‘mom’ said to me that she didn’t know how they could handle this move at their age, I felt the door had opened for me.
I shared with her that two years ago when my husband and I moved into the communal living arrangement we have with our youngest daughter and her husband, I experienced an unexpected feeling of relief and security. When I gave our move and this unexpected response some thought, I realized that we were no longer in the potential position of being alone in our old age and felt this surprising sense of relief and security.
I told my mother that I feared if they got moved back to their home state–which they’ve been away from for 25 years–they would ultimately feel alone and insecure, and want to return to the warm sunny desert where 4/6ths of their family lives. They would be leaving four of their combined children, each of which today give them support, company and all the help they need. They would be moving to a small town where her son lives at the moment, but plans to move shortly to be closer to one of his daughters. I tried to gently remind her that their friends are also elderly and cannot be counted on for support. Then I boldly said that usually elderly parents try to move closer to their families rather than move away from them at this point in their lives.
Even with Dad’s dementia, they have done an amazing job of caring for themselves, for the most part, and living independently in their own home. However, it seems that when they get an idea into their heads that they want to do something, all reality quickly marches right out the back door. Their house will be on the market next week, according to their plans. They will hire the entire move done. The snow and ice of midwestern winters will be like the heat of desert summers and they will just stay indoors. My greatest fear is that this move will compromise their ability to remain independent and they will end up in a place they really don’t want to be.
I keep reminding myself of the value of seeking wise counsel and I am praying that as I age, the curse of stubbornness will not have settled on me.