Today's Extended Family: Living With My Elderly Mother
It's a Girl!
About 18 months ago, my husband and I added to our family. It was a girl!
No, we did not have a baby or adopt. Instead, we moved my elderly mother in from out of state. My father had passed away a couple of years earlier, and my mother had decided to continue to live in their home in Vermont all alone.
At first, all was good. Though she had some medical issues of her own, at the time she was in good enough health to take care of herself. Financially, things were a little rocky. You see, my parents had not planned for their future beyond social security. The benefits they received were okay, but when my father passed away my mom had to go without his full benefit, which cut down on her monthly income quite significantly.
After the first year of my father's passing, we noticed that my mother's health had started to decline at a steady pace. She had previously been diagnosed with COPD and was using at home oxygen on an as-needed basis. We noticed that the oxygen had been needed more frequently and got to the point that she need to be on it 24-7. She was having various COPD-related issues and was becoming more and more sick each day.
There were relatives living in the area, but she did not have visitors regularly enough for us to feel safe about her living alone. One day she had a dizzy spell during a breathing incident and passed out on her kitchen floor. It just so happened that an aunt in her town had tried calling her a couple of times. After not getting my mother on phone with a couple of attempts, she decided to stop in and check on her. We were all very lucky that she did. 911 had to be called and my mother spent some time in the ICU.
After this, it was decided. She would sell her house in Vermont and move to Connecticut to live with us. Though we have a small ranch house, our oldest son had just moved to Florida to start college, so his room was empty. The timing was perfect, although we missed out on knowing what it would be like to have a spare room again.
My Husband, the Saint
Having mom at home has been something to get used to. My kids are trying to adjust to having another adult in charge—and honestly, my husband and I are having a hard time adjusting to having another adult take charge of our children, as well.
Privacy in our household has become an unknown luxury.
My mother requires someone to take charge of her medications, doctors visits, insurance, etc. I am disorganized person by nature, and I have a hard time keeping track of things. Knowing this, my husband has stepped in and has taken control. He works the second shift at his job, so his days are usually open, which by default has made him the primary caregiver for my mom. He drives her to the majority of her many doctors appointments, picks up her prescriptions, makes her phone calls. He does it all. The man is an absolute saint. I honestly do not know how I would manage without him. My mother is no easy personality either, and he spends the majority of each of his days with her. He has the ability (most days) to let her complaints and words roll right off his back like water on a duck's feathers. His patience level is out of this world. I, on the other hand, have a hard time with biting my tongue and keeping my cool. There are not many men out there that would willingly take in their mother-in-law and take control of their affairs.
Finding Our Way
My mother was quite sick recently and was rushed to the hospital. She was in the ICU and had to be put on a ventilator. Her doctors were very grim about her prognosis. She was not expected to make it out of the hospital alive. However, mom being mom, she fought and fought and was taken off of the vent. After 8 days in the hospital she was released, much to the staff's surprise.
This incident has given us all a new perspective. Yes, life is hectic. Yes, privacy is a thing of the past, but we have learned that life is precious and even though your family may make you crazy at times, you must learn to hold on to and cherish every moment as if it were the last. You just never know when it will be.
I do not believe that we are unique in our situation. It seems that more and more people these days are finding themselves a part of the new, modern, extended family. As our parents age and find themselves in a financial dire straits from lack of retirement planning, children are now taking in their parents and becoming caregivers for them. It's only fair. They did it for us all of those years. It's now time for us to repay the kindness, even if it means changing the course of your life for a period of time. Hang in there and know that you are not alone. There are a lot of us our there with Mom or Dad at home.