Dear Family Resource,
My parents live in a retirement community. My dad has terminal cancer and is under hospice care and I’m worried about how my mom will manage once he passes. They were never very social and had no hobbies or activities. They were devoted to each other and that was enough for them. She says she’s not interested in any of the clubs or activities offered by her retirement community and I’m afraid that after he’s gone she’ll become a hermit and never leave her apartment. I don’t want her to become one of those elderly people who dies of a broken heart shortly after their spouse dies. Do you have any suggestions of ways to help my mom rebuild her life once my dad is gone?
You know the saying, “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks?” I’m afraid your mother will not change nor will you have the ability to wave your magic wand and change the situation. I do think you can, however, take some action now that may be useful in the event your father dies.
Make sure your mother has a primary physician who knows her and suggests she schedule an appointment with her doctor now if she hasn’t been going annually. It will be helpful to have a primary physician who can guide your mother as she navigates her physical and mental health now and after your father dies.
It may also be a good idea to solicit a volunteer or paid companion who can visit both your parents now, check in on your mother to make sure she has everything she needs or run an errand. Someone to become a familiar face. Your mother may not appreciate it now, but that familiar face will be a blessing after your father dies. Lastly, it sounds as if your parents do not have any ties to their community. After your father’s death, it may be the time to move your mother to the West Coast so she can be closer to you. As she continues to age, it will be easier to have your mother nearby. If you are interested, you can go to https://wahca.org/ “find a provider” to see if companion care may be an answer for the immediate future.
~Best, Family Resource