His elderly mom lives in an independent living community. She is far from independent however. At 100 Mabel relies on her 80 year old son and a handful of caregivers to take care of her day to day needs. She is elderly but so is her son!
“He will leave when I tell him he can leave!’ Mabel shouts to the caregiver who makes the mistake of mentioning that Mabel’s son needs a break. He is not a young man anymore and by all accounts he is considered elderly. And he stays because he doesn’t want to upset mother.
This connection between a mother and her son is a special one and it is also one that some mothers take advantage of in their older years. For many women who are over 80 their life was much different than women experience today. Growing up in the 1930’s 40’s and 50’s women and men had very distinct roles in life. It was expected that a man provide a home and all comforts for his wife while she was expected to manage the home and take care of the children. Men were protectors and were expected to take care of their wife.
When that protector passes on the wife often feels lost and vulnerable. The best way to fix that vulnerability is to get a new protector. While some women may remarry solving the problem others begin to rely on their adult son to pick up the role. And the son wants to protect and care for his mom but a 60, 70 or 80 year old man needs to care for himself also. Mom doesn’t seem to realize he is elderly too.
“I thought I would get to retire and enjoy life a little” Jim told me. “But mom is constantly calling me to take her here and there. She can no longer drive because of her macular degeneration so she relies on me. I don’t want to sound selfish but I am 69 years old. I retired a year ago but now mom expects me to be at her beck and call!”
“I feel like Mom’s entertainment!” a frustrated Mark told me. “ My wife and I cannot go out alone without mom getting her feelings hurt that we didn’t include her.”
The stories are endless. When I suggest that it might be time to place mom in an assisted living or bring in some home help to solve the transportation issue I am hit with a resounding No! Mom wouldn’t go for that, they tell me. She doesn’t want strangers in her home and she doesn’t want to move.
But it’s not just about mom is it? This issue involves the whole family. When one person is no longer able to care for themselves by themselves they are no longer independent. No matter how much mom professes she is independent the truth is she is not. If her son were to have a heart attack tomorrow she would have to hire help. No if’s and’s or but’s.
And if you think a heart attack cannot happen, think again. It can and does. What would mom do if you were not able to care for her? Maybe it’s time to begin setting some boundaries with your elderly mom. Yep! She probably won’t like it but she won’t like it if you don’t show up one day because you are in the hospital either. Give her a couple of choices. We can bring in home care or we can move you to that nice assisted living community down the street. Which one do you choose? Don’t ask which one she will like because that will open a can of worms. LOL She will not like anything but she can choose one.
Setting boundaries with your elderly mom is the compassionate thing to do for both of you.
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