My mother is coming home from rehab this Sunday. She has been there since last November after an emergency colon surgery where two feet of her colon was removed. She has undergone quite a bit of physical therapy at the rehab center but still she is very compromised and can barely do anything for herself. She has Parkinson’s as well and it continues to progress and negatively impact the quality of her and her husband’s life.
Her husband whom she married when she was fifty has been her caretaker for the last 20 years, but the both of them are 85. Though relatively healthy, he is obviously challenged by this overwhelming responsibility. I see him moving more slowly. When I visited a week ago it took him a very long time to get up out of a chair. He has started to shuffle. He recently had a hernia operation probably due to the strain in moving my mother in and out of bed, in and out of her wheel chair, on and off the toilet.
My brother, sister, and I have been urging the two of them to sell their house to afford them some quality care and peace of mind at an assisted living facility. My mother wants the house to be our inheritance and refuses to discuss anything that will take that asset away from her/ us. We keep urging her that we do not need this asset and that it would be put to much greater use in supporting them. They will not hear this. We have discussed other solutions like going on Medicaid and a reverse mortgage. Though at various points since last November we thought they were in agreement about these possible routes, they have since retrenched and will hear nothing that we are saying.
On top of this, my mother is fighting us getting her and her husband any help at home. Her husband can no longer do the heavy lifting anymore. She wants no help. We continue to make convincing arguments insisting that she and her husband will be able to stay in their home longer if they do have assistance. The counselors at the rehab center have shared the same advice. She’s afraid anyone coming into the house will steal her tzotchkes. We will pay for home healthcare assistance but she doesn’t want us to spend any money on them, which is all pretty strange because we already give them money. Of course, the money we give them is usually tied to birthdays and holidays. There is a contextual reason for the timing of the gift, but they would not be able to make it financially without our help. They are living solely on social security which doesn’t add up to much because my mother’s portion is very small since she has been on disability for so many years. Medicare will pay for three more weeks of home assistance so we think she will be open to this. We have found a home health care worker who has agreed to “show up” at their house after the three weeks are up.
So sad. It’s so sad. We want to give them choice and control over their lives but the two of them are in utter denial about their situation and the stress and strain their choice will be adding to their lives. To our lives as well. We know that the best idea is to let them have control over their lives and make their own choices but the consequences of these decisions will leave them ultimately without any control at all. It is all very frustrating.
This reticence, this inflexibility, this stubbornness, this irrationality is a familiar rut that I remember my mother playing out again and again as I grew up. Sometimes this trait was endearing, most of the time exasperating. Her steel trap mind still holds grudges against people whom she perceives as having wronged her 60 and 70 years ago. Her “my way or the highway” may have helped to get Dad a raise once, but it will diminish the quality of the life she has left, let alone endanger the both of them and their health. We all live out of town. My brother and I the furthest away. Though we try to get in to visit them every other weekend (staggered between us), even with my sister (who lives closest) checking in on them several times a week, none of us can give the 24/7 my mother needs.
If she and her husband were the only ones who would have to bear the weight of the consequences of their choices, all would be fine. Unfortunately, the circle of bearing that weight is larger. They can’t see that. They refuse to see that.
Along with all her other symptoms, my mother and her husband continue to be emotionally blind as well.