Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When Duty Calls

by Deb Baker/Hannah Reed

Duty calls.

My eighty-year-old spunky, active mother broke her ankle. The right one. Her driving ankle. While working in her garden.

Mom (widowed) still lives in the three-bedroom family ranch with full basement and a yard bordered by flowerbeds. I’m the closest distance-wise at 2 hours away. My sister is 3+. Until now, our mother hasn’t needed much help.

By the time you read this, I will have helped her through the weekend and taken her to the specialist to figure out if she will need surgery. I will have made meals and finished getting her garden ready for winter. Before I leave, I'll make sure she has frozen dinners and I'll do her wash. But I can't stay for the number of weeks it will take for that ankle to heal. I have my own family and a job (so does my sister).

Mom is an independent soul and probably she'll be just fine. But I'll worry and feel guilty and worry some more.

What now? What's next? How do I deal with my mother's future health issues from a distance?

p.s. Mom doesn't have wi-fi (sigh) so I'll be going to the local library each day to keep in touch.

23 comments:

  1. If she is as independent as you say, then you have done all you could, in the time you have to be there for her, and I am sure, she understands, and knows that too. we had a similar situation years ago, we were the nearest relations, at an hours and a half drive, and we did grocery shopping on the weekends, laundry, took granny out a few places, all with a 6 mo old on my hip...!! Hubby worked during the week and I had music lessons to teach...we called every day....If she has friends, or neighbors, they can call her too, stop by...You cannot feel guilty about where you live, and her accident....and worrying will give you headaches...you need to be practical, and do the best you can, in the time you do have, and she will know that. You may have to travel there for a few weekends......til she is mending better...as to her future health issues..ask her. I have watched too many well meaning family members worry and get involved in a family members' health issues, only to become a problem. Ask her..what does she think? And then watch her, as she answers...you can read her...then, pretend you are her...what would you want your kids doing for, to, you? Or, not? Besides, think positive, her ankle will heal just fine..maybe not perfect, but fine.

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    1. You are amazing SueAnn. I can't imagine doing this with a baby!! Your advice is priceless. Thank you. I cooked, gardened, washed clothes, etc. and she's going to be just fine without my unnecessary guilt and/or interference. Hope I'm like her at 80!

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  2. If your Mom has insurance perhaps it covers a Visiting Nurse or Home Health Aid that can visit each day to check her progress and/or help clean, cook and drive your Mom to doctor's visits. Check to see if your Mom's City has an Elder Services Dept. which can point you in the right direction. Hopefully you can fine the appropriate support agency to keep an eye on your Mom.

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    1. That might be a good option down the road. Right now she says, "No way!"

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  3. I am now almost 77 and have been in your position. My family was a little over an hour away. When my mother broke her arm, I took her home with me for 4 months. She didn't drive so I went up every Tuesday and took her food shopping and did the errands. Also wash. She was in an elderly apt. I did this for 12 years. Then it was my aunt and uncle. Sometimes I went up there twice a week as he had a stroke and she couldn't drive.. That lasted for 6 years. Yes, I was tired and felt put upon but couldn't bring myself to stop.. Aunt and Uncle would not get help.. they would tell me yes and when the people would call them, they told them not to come. They took a lot more care than my mother did. When he needed a nursing home I put her in the rest home attached to it and still went every week to visit. this ended last year when she died. Now I have sold my house and it is the best thing I could have done for me. I'm in a 55 and over apt. and love it.. On the first floor, can garden outside my apt and have 5 rooms. I'm saving so much money with gas heat. Much lower than the oil I used to have and my electricity is much lower too. No property taxes to pay, no plow man and no lawn man. I only wish I had done it sooner. I don't have a garage and wish I did but I can move my car when they plow. When I think of all the money I put into my house, it makes me sick...This is called an affordable complex for over 55 and I pay the highest rent but it is well worth it.. It's not like the small apartments for the elderly that my mother was in. My son doesn't worry so much about me (he is 1 hour away). See if you can get her to move.. It's hard at first thought but after a while, she would begin to look forward to a new place.

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    1. Diane, there are special places in heaven for angels like you!! I've spoken with her about moving but she wants to stay in her own home. I went through a divorce this year and ended up moving into an apartment and LOVE it for the same reasons you love yours. Wish I could convince her:(

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  4. I also meant to say that you are a good daughter and are doing what you can.. The towns have a lot of help but she has to agree to it. Try to get her to accept their help.

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    1. Help with domestics she accepts. Suggestions? Not so much. Stubborn woman.

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  5. Having lived through this situation with both my parents and an elderly great aunt, I would suggest looking into Lifeline Alert or something similar. It provides a fob that can be worn as a necklace or carried in a pocket and if something happens, your mother can press the fob and it connects to 24/7 people who will summon help. Definitely check to see if there is a Meals on Wheels program (still operating regardless of the current political issues) that can provide meals for your mother during her recovery. If she has surgery, she may need rehab and that should be covered by Medicare for at least 100 days if necessary. Places to call might be the social service department of the local hospital, the town your mother lives in, and the state. Good luck.

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    1. Thanks, Colleen, those are excellent ideas. Unfortunately, she won't accept them. But it's looking hopeful that she won't need surgery.

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  6. My partner and I live down the hall from her dad. We are in our 60's and he is pushing 92. He has had 4 hip replacements, wears 2 hearing aides and can be a royal pain. I'm the stay at home partner so it's my responsibility to make his doctor appointments, take him for the appointments, do his shopping and pick up the phone every hour or so to hear him ask "what's happening?". His short term memory is a ghost but he'll regale you with stories from his childhood.

    Three of my 4 kids live within 15 minutes of us and try to visit him at least once a week. They make my life easier by taking him out to eat. Personally my health isn't that good either so there are days I just don't want to deal with him.

    This is the cycle of life, sometimes it can really suck. LOL

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    1. NoraA, you are another angel for heaven. Lucky man and hopefully he appreciates it. Take care of yourself.

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  7. What about neighbors and local organizations that she might belong to? Church groups?

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    1. As it turns out, a minister lives two houses over and her friend lives in between, so I've been suggesting he might know someone who would help. She didn't express much enthusiasm, though:(

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  8. Does where you mom live have transportation that seniors can use? In Tioga Cty, PA we have Endless Mountains Transportation that you call at least 24 hrs in advance and they will take a senior shopping, to the doctor or to the hairdresser for $0.75 each stop. I have used it to go to doctors appointments.

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    1. I don't know, which means I need to look into it. Thanks!

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  9. I live 12 hours from my parents' home. Last year I made 4 trips here to their house because my dad was not doing well. My Dad passed away almost a year ago. I am at my mom's for the 4th time this year. She is doing very well on her own. She still lives on the farmstead, 12 miles from town. My husband and I are moving in with her. She thought about moving into town, but this is home. So we are going to move here so she can stay and we can be around a lot more. So far I think everyone is okay with it. She likes her independence, but she is admitting that it is nice to have someone else around as the days get shorter. So I hope it all works out well, if not, we will move somewhere nearby so we are not that long 12 hours away. I love my mom and I am so happy my husband is retiring so we can do this.

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    1. Wow, Elaine, you are a wonderful daughter and role model! Hope the transition is smooth.

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    2. Thanks, I'm not trying to sound like a saint or anything. I am the one of the kids that has not had a job in several years so it works for me to do this. And my husband has been very patient through the last year and a half. But I am so looking forward to him joining me here. And I am very happy to be able to spend so much time with my mom. It works for us where we are at in our life right now. It would be much harder for the other kids to do this.

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  10. I hope your mother is doing better already Deb, and that you have found some help along the way. I think moving her in with you for a few weeks would be a better solution than you driving over again and again. But I really, really would not want my own parents living with me ever again.

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    1. I offered to take her in but she refused. Whew:)

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  11. Wow, now that is a lot to deal with. Independence is the last thing your mother has to hold onto. I so don't wish to be in your shoes, but I firmly believe you're being a good daughter Deb! Do what you can and hopefully she'll come around to thinking you way. A house is a lot of responsibility.

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    1. You are so right about that house. Owning one isn't all it's cracked up to be. Lots of upkeep.

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