Caring for Mamita
This page is intended to give you some food for thought when considering whether having your parent live with you is the best option. Here are some things to consider...
Do they want to live with you?
Prior to my dad's departure, we had moved them into a retirement community. My mom was sick of taking care of a big house & was ready to not cook & clean. They had enough money to make this work. As much as my mom was a social butterfly, my dad was not but he was willing to move for my mom. Sadly, he only lasted a few weeks before he was in the hospital, then a rehab center, back to the hospital, rehab & then finally into a hospice facility where he passed.
During this time, I spent a lot of time with my mom & came to realize how difficult it was for her to take care of meds, checking her glucose levels & other activities of daily living. She ended up in the hospital as my dad was declining & this is when we invited her to live with us. As I said, my mom had a "go with the flow" attitude & she liked having company. We all got a long well together & were all willing to see how this experiment would work. Also, financially this was the best option as living on her own in the retirement community would cost more than she could afford.
Are you open to make lifestyle changes for your parent?
In our situation, my husband knew that I would continue to spend a lot of time with my mom trying to help her settle in to her new place & develop her routine. Thankfully, it was down the street but I was still there a lot. I had recently been laid off so I had the time to help out. He was the one who said, "How about having your mom live with us & then I would get to see you more. She'd be right down the hall." Such a great man!!
We both gave up our office spaces & made one room both of our offices & the guest room & the bigger room became my mom's room. It was a sacrifice as neither of us really had a space & often times ended up using the kitchen table as the office space. Our alone time also became less. My mom enjoyed spending time with my Aunt so we made sure to take advantage of their time together so that we could spend time together. Mom also joined a class at the Senior Center. Once a year, my mom would visit my sister in Seattle for a month so Sean & I could travel & take care of house stuff while she was gone. Having a support network is so important as being a caregiver is 24 hours a day & you will need some down time to rejuvenate.
How do they want to spend their time?
When my mom came to live with us, the doctors estimated she had about a year left. She had vascular disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes & a touch of dementia. She had a lot going on. We were able to work with her doctors to stabilize her disease processes as she really wanted to travel. Thankfully, she was able to live five years with us instead of one.
We made traveling a priority. We had a wheelchair for trips so she didn't have to walk far & tire herself out. When traveling with an elder, depending on their ability, it's best to plan for a few activities a day. If you get to all of the things planned, great, but if you don't, be ok with that. Enjoy the time you have together.
Do you need to make changes in your home?
Initially, we just had to make a few changes in the house. Painting her room, moving furniture, adding more storage for her things, getting a shower bench and adding hand rails next to the toilet & in the shower. In 2016, she had an amputation so we had to widen doors & update the bathroom to accommodate a wheelchair. There were plenty of skid marks on walls & door jams here & there due to her trying to maneuver the house in the wheelchair. It's best to have a sense of humor.
How much assistance does your loved one need?
At 77 years old, my mom had an amputation which meant needing to get her moving every day so that she could keep her other leg. She got a prosthetic leg & learned to walk again with the help of a walker. My mom was my number one job. I also taught classes & fortunately, my schedule allowed me to be gone just a few hours at a time.
The last few years of my mom's life, she needed more assistance & couldn't be left alone for long due to memory issues. Thankfully, she had money that we save for end of life care. The last few months of her life, she needed someone with her all the time. I hired a companion to be with her during the day so I could still teach & also a few nights a week so that we could rest the whole night.
How will finances & legal issues be handled?
I became my mom's Power of Attorney when she moved in. My brother, Sean & I were put on her financial accounts. I was in charge of paying her bills. Each month, we would go over expenses. Thankfully, with my father's social security & her annuity, she could do as she pleased. There was also a life insurance policy from my father that we tried not to touch so that there would be money for end of life expenses.
Where do they wish to pass?
This can be a difficult topic to discuss with your loved one but it's an important one to have with them prior to their health declining. My father had passed in a hospice house & my mom liked that as an option but she would rather stay with us. We were more than happy to have her be with us as well.
Hospice is a wonderful option especially if your parent has a chronic illness like congestive heart failure. As this disease progresses it can put your loved one in the hospital many times & depending on your situation, this may not be where your loved one wants to be. For my mom, she didn't want any tubes in her body or white walls surrounding her. She wanted to be home.
The hospice folks help especially if you can get them early. They can get you all the medical equipment you will need like a hospital bed, potty chair, oxygen, all medications, nebulizer & all of the other supplies that will be needed to keep your parent comfortable. They get to know your parent & your parent starts to get comfortable with them. They offer support to you as well as your family specifically in gaining knowledge & understanding about the transition to the end of life. This time together will be bittersweet yet so meaningful.
Here are some resources that may be helpful: