Dear Carol: My mother developed vascular dementia, personality issues and speech problems after a stroke three years ago. She lives with me, and because of her difficult personality, my daughter no longer wants to bring my grandchildren here to visit. I retired early to care for Mom, but now I feel trapped.
Nothing I do for her is right. I’ve suggested that she might have a better life if she moved to assisted living and, surprisingly, she isn’t resistant - though I know she’ll complain about them, too, if she moves. My sisters live out of the area, so they are limited with what they can do. We have a highly rated assisted living facility in town, but thinking about moving Mom to any kind of care makes me feel like a selfish failure. I know that I’m depressed and burned out but I don’t know how to fix it. - CL.
Dear CL: Of course you are burned out. Nearly anyone would be under these circumstances.
Looking for a different living arrangement for your mom makes complete sense. Such a change could help you regain a feeling of having some control over your own life, and it could help your mom by providing professional care as well as opportunities to socialize.
Be honest with your sisters about your depression and burnout, as well as your plans for the move. Their support while you make this change would make the process easier, but even if they are too busy or uninvolved to actively help you, press forward.
You mentioned knowing about one highly rated local facility, but if there are several options in your community, check into them all. Assisted living facilities can vary significantly and you won’t want to think back with regret over not having investigated every available option. Ideally, the best facility will be convenient for you to visit often, but quality of care is the primary criteria.
Tell your mom you’re glad that she sees the need for a change. Underscore that you'll still have plenty of time together and you’ll always be her advocate. Be prepared for her to experience cold feet, but remind her when she does waver that this change is for both of you because your health now needs attention. Capitalize on your mom’s willingness to make this change even if it’s fleeting.
Once you've selected a facility, see if she’s open to going there for lunch so she could meet some people ahead of the move. Add excitement by planning how you’ll fix up her new room with her belongings.
You are neither selfish nor a failure, CL. When I consider the circumstances that you describe, this seems like a wise choice not only for you and your mom but for your grandkids. Your entire family needs you, and you have a right to enjoy them.
Additionally, you can't let your health become so compromised that you are the one who needs care from your daughter even as your mom requires it from you.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.