Helping to Choose a Nursing Home
Once a Child … Always a Child
I’ve written many articles about and marketing for senior living facilities over the years, so I know how dogged seniors can be about their independence. They’ll drag their feet about moving into assisted living, or heaven forbid, a nursing home, because the change in scenery—and more importantly, the loss of control—represents the beginning of the end to them. But I’ve never really understood why their adult kids were seemingly powerless in the struggle. Until recently.
It started with my mother and her mother …
At an age when most of my peers have no living grandparents, I am lucky enough to still have a grandmother. Fortunately, she’s still relatively healthy, but she is experiencing all the normal frailty and lack of mobility you’d expect for someone almost 94. She uses a walker to get around, needs help to shower, and over the past few years, has taken a few spills. However, she adamantly refuses to leave her home. My sister and I have wrangled with our mother about why she and our aunt and uncles let her live alone (with regular visits from her kids and a caregiver once a week), when it’s obviously a much worse accident just waiting to happen. “Because we can’t make her,” they all respond. “Why not? Just pack her bags and put her in a car.” But they just shake their heads as if we don’t understand.
Then I learned for myself
Very recently, my own mother developed fluid around her heart, which caused her to become very winded when she walked even very short distances. Until she was able to get an echocardiogram to diagnose the problem, my sister and I asked her to come to Richmond (she lives out of town) where we could take care of her for a while. She refused. We both begged her, separately and together, but she dug in her heels and said she was fine at home; she wasn’t leaving. End of story. So we packed our bags and tag-teamed the mom-sitting. Even that was unnecessary in her opinion and she proceeded to cook for us like we were simply visiting. Gentle suggestions to check the swelling in her legs, put her feet up, call other doctors were summarily ignored.
It was then that I realized that the parent/child dynamic is never outgrown. A daughter can’t tell her mom what to do any more than a mom feels the need to listen. To make sure our parents make the best decisions and stay safe, it’s better to turn the role of advisor over to a third party who they will listen to, essentially someone whose nose they’ve never wiped. That way we can enjoy the loving—yes, sometimes frustrating—relationship we were meant to.