Dear Family Resource,
My mom is divorced, healthy and, since I moved away for grad school a year ago, lives alone. The problem is she’s started calling me several times a day about little things. She’s only 65 so she’s not exactly old, but she’s really changed. Sometimes she calls because she “just wants to hear my voice,” but other times it’s about a house repair she thinks is needed, a problem with her computer, or to tell me something about a family member (which she probably already told me the day before). She’ll even call to ask what I’m eating. She doesn’t work so maybe she simply has too much time on her hands. Or maybe she’s trying to put a guilt trip on me for having moved out of state or maybe there’s something wrong with her. I love her and I feel bad when I cut her off and remind her that I’m busy with school and can’t talk to her 10 times a day. How can I get her to stop?
~All Talked Out
Dear Talked Out,
It sounds to me like your mom is feeling the loss of your company. When you were living at home she had a purpose but with you gone she’s lonely and doesn’t have enough to do. This often happens to women who have dedicated themselves to their families and find themselves at loose ends once everyone moves on.
She’s probably anxious about her future so is leaning on what is familiar – you. But at age 65, your mom likely has many good years left in her life and needs to find activities that will help her feel productive and fulfilled. Telling her that you understand that the separation is difficult will help, as will spending some time with her to help identify activities she might enjoy (volunteer work, exercise, book club, etc) as well as resources in her community (community or senior center, library, church, etc).
You didn’t mention whether she has other family or friends in the area but if she does you might enlist them to help. Once she has other people to talk to and activities she enjoys she won’t feel the need to call you “ten times a day.” However, there’s always a possibility that something else is causing the behaviors you describe and if you feel that she’s having a mental health issue or if you notice changes in her memory or health status, it’s important that she gets professional help. Home care agencies like ours often provide companion care, which also might be worth looking into if she needs simply needs some company from time to time.
~Family Resource Home Care