Here’s the problem: Mom is 83 years old and living in the home in which she lived all her life, about 5 hours by car from you. She is functioning well for the most part so her safety is not an issue. Dad’s health is ok, failing somewhat, but also not in danger. When you last visited you saw that the house was dirty and in need of a deep cleaning. This was true of the visit before then when you personally spent the weekend cleaning. You bought cleaning supplies for them and looked unsuccessfully for a cleaning service to come in periodically. You noticed that their pantry was somewhat bare and there were no leftovers in the refrigerator, a rare situation for them. You shopped for them and made lots of things during your visit, some of which they could have later that week. You looked for a grocery store that would deliver groceries but found none. In fact, since they live rurally there are very few support services nearby. You know that moving them would be detrimental to their independence but you don’t know how long this arrangement will work and you are scared of what could happen. Any time you’ve brought this up they’ve stonewalled, making it very clear that they want to stay where they are. They love living in their house and have even said, “I will die here.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well clearly you’re not alone.
The solution? There isn’t one for everyone, and there may not be one for you. The options are clear:
- Do nothing but continue to monitor how well they’re doing.
- Try to convince them to move closer to you.
- You move closer to them.
Here’s my take on this: Have a frank talk with them about the future. Easy? Not! They’ve never been forthcoming about their feelings and you’ve never had that kind of relationship anyway. Besides, you’re just their kid.
But in this conversation, I suggest a different approach. Maybe that will lead to a different result, maybe not. But I guarantee it will change your relationship.
I suggest starting with the assumption and total acceptance on your part that decisions about their lives are theirs to make. And no matter what that decision is, you will embrace it. That’s right, embrace it. Even if you disagree and it makes things much tougher for you or them.
What’s important is that you listen to your parents and be open-minded about their wishes. They are their
wishes. You can certainly express your own desires and feelings, and even try to persuade them if necessary. But remember that people want to remain in charge of their own lives as long as possible. Unless they’re in danger, your parents have a right to take risks and even to make foolish decisions about their own lives.
Your parents may not be physically feeble but that doesn’t mean they’re feeble-minded. Treat them with the respect you would want.