The phone call came in at 2 AM. Pat, my aging mother in law had fallen again. It was the forth fall this year and it was bad. She was on the way to the hospital in an ambulance. My husband jumped into the shower while I quickly packed him a bag. Living 250 miles away from an aging parent made it even more difficult. With 3 animals at home I would need to stay behind to find care for them before leaving. There was also business to take care of before I could head out to help.
We had been trying to get Pat to move close to us for about 3 years. It is a real challenge to try to care for an aging parent long distance.She had no family close to where she was living, in fact we were the closest. Another son lived about 800 miles away. Friends had mostly passed away or were in as bad of shape as she was.
Every time Pat started really considering a move to Houston to be closer to Doug and I her son in North Carolina would tell her he was looking for places there. And she would shut down afraid a move to one city or the other would upset one of her sons. And quite frankly I think she enjoyed the attention she was getting from both of them.
Luckily, my sister in law told me, we could take off whenever we could to help her since we worked for ourselves. Louise is a teacher and would have to pay someone to take her place she told me. She doesn't get it! We are self employed not unemployed. When we take off we do not get any work done and that does affect our bottom line, I can assure you. As any family caregiver knows we have paid dearly to care for our aging parents.
She would not be happy when she realized we moved her permanently. We knew this. Knowing does not make it any easier. What I learned from this experience is that the move is going to be challenging no matter when you do it but if you wait until a crisis it will be twice as hard. If you wait until there is a crisis you may not have as many options available to you.
Pat has been here two years now and still talks about her home in Louisiana and asks me “When do I think she will be able to return home”. She will probably always ask. I tell her “Now Patty Jo, who would I go get my nails done with if you leave!” She smiles and says “You’re right. I would miss you and Doug.” Tomorrow she will ask again.
Kathryn Watson is the author of Help! My Parent’s Are Aging. She is a Life Coach and an ElderCare Adviser helping families make the best decisions regarding the care of an aging loved one. Order her book here