caring for a parent

Deathbed promises and how to fulfill them

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Painting by artist, Mary Riesche
Painting by artist, Mary Riesche

Here’s another article from the past that draws lots of attention. Bringing it into the present today.

First of all – take a deep breath and shed the mantle of guilt you’re wearing.  Now let’s address your dilemma.

When your father was on his deathbed you made a promise to take care of your mother in her old age.  Now she is at the point of not being able to care for herself and you realize that you’re absolutely not cut out for – nor are you capable of – taking her under your roof to provide the care that she needs.  What’s a dutiful son or daughter to do?

I’m not advocating that you break your promise to your father but I am suggesting that you consider redefining what that promise looks like.  You promised your father that you would take care of your mother and that’s exactly what you’re going to do.  Taking care of your mother is not solely defined as moving her into your home and taking care of all her basic needs until she dies.  Very few people have the ability or the means to provide 24-hour care in their home.  You made that promise with the best intentions and you can still honor your promise without dishonoring your father.  Keep in mind that loving your mother doesn’t guarantee your success as her caregiver.  Even adult children with a fabulous relationship with their parent struggle greatly in their efforts.  And if your relationship with your mother is tenuous at best, try picturing the scenario of you as caregiver and her as recipient of that care.  What effect will that have on her, you, and the remainder of your household?

Let’s clarify how best to care for your mother.

Why can’t caring for your mother mean that you’re honest enough to admit that you’re not the best caregiving option?  Do your best to find the care alternative that will provide her an optimal quality of life, e.g. adult daycare, errand and housekeeping services, assisted living.  Do the research and consult the experts to confidently fulfill your promise to your father by securing the best care solution for your mother.  If that solution involves selecting an assisted living facility, there are many resources available to you that can make this move a successful one for everyone involved.  As her son or daughter you will be able to lovingly help her transition into a residential location with like-minded older adults where she can receive the care that will fulfill the promise you made to your father.

Now imagine the NEW normal that your mother and your family can experience.

Your mother lives nearby in an assisted living residence.  She has companions with whom she enjoys spending time.  She receives three wholesome meals a day and when she, or you, feel like seeing each other, you’re just a short drive away!  The time she spends at your house will be as a pampered visitor – not an inpatient (or impatient) relative.  It’s probably difficult right now for you to see this as a viable option, but I think in time, you’ll find that everyone, including your father, will be pleased with the outcome.

Here are some links to get you started on your quest: www.alz.org; www.caregiver.com; www.ltcombudsman.org

I covet your input.  What success, or challenges in achieving success, can you share with us?  I look forward to hearing from you.