caregiver caregiversDear Sheila,

Eight years ago I was a single mother of 2 teenagers. A divorce and a foreclosure had left me terrified that my sons and I would end up homeless. But my mother came to our rescue, took us in, and never even asked for rent. She gave us time and space to heal, and eventually I got back on my feet. I bought a new home and found a job that I love. Now my sons are grown and I finally feel that I can start doing things for myself, like traveling or just going out to dinner. But while I was re-building my life, my mother was aging and developing serious health problems. Her mind is sound but she’s 82 years old, has diabetes and COPD, and takes a slew of medications. I live nearby and have always helped her with whatever she needs, but now she needs more than I can give. My siblings, who also live nearby, are playing the guilt card. They say that since mom let us live with her rent free, I owe it to her to move into her home and care for her “in her time of need.”  I don’t know what to do. I can continue to look in on her most days and take her shopping and to appointments, but doing more than that would mean giving up having a life of my own. Is there a compromise?

~Guilty Sister

Dear Guilty,

I’ll bet a guilt trip is not the kind of traveling you planned to do, and it’s time to jump off that train and look for some solutions. I’m wondering what your mom wants. If her mind is sound she should definitely be a major player in the discussion and in any decisions that are made. But before anyone can get to a decision there are questions that need to be answered such as what does she need help with today, what is her health history, and based on that, what might be expected for the future? What is her financial situation? That is, what can she comfortably pay should a compromise include hiring outside caregiving help? Finally, even if you were to move in (which I am not suggesting), who would provide care when you are at work? To help answer these questions, I think you’d find it very helpful to bring in a Geriatric Care Manager. These professionals are experts in coming up with care solutions that work for each unique situation and family. The Care Manager will do a full assessment of your mom’s physical and mental health status and then help by providing options and support to your family in the decision-making process. If at some point your family decides to hire an outside caregiver, then I would be happy to speak with any or all of you about what Family Resource Home Care does. Our caregivers are available to work shifts as short as 2 hours and many families begin by having a caregiver come in for short shifts a few days a week. Over time, as needs grow, the caregiver, who is now a familiar presence in the home, can work additional hours. I want to reassure you that there are many, many options for senior care and I hope you won’t let your sibling’s guilt-trip you into doing something you are not prepared to do. After all, it might not even be what your mom wants!

~Sheila

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