Taking care of an aging parent

 

It’s been simmering for quite some time…the idea that my mom should not be living alone. There are a myriad of reasons to reconsider her current living situation.

The first and foremost being that her quality of life is diminished because she just can’t afford it anymore, and my brothers and I can’t afford to keep sending money to the money pit. There are also, of course health reasons that come with many septuagenarians that need to be addressed and watched over.

It’s a hard line to take: when the child becomes the caregiver of the parent. No one likes the ramifications of what that entails. There will be power struggles, the first of which is actually convincing her that her quality of life would be better living with one of her adult children. No parent wants to give up their independence, and having to rely on an adult child is not part of their plan usually. You don’t raise your children thinking “I can’t wait until I can get under their roof.” But there’s a whole generation of parents right now, who didn’t save enough for retirement because they didn’t have to. I know it sounds foolish to our generation, but for my parent’s generation, there was always going to be a pension that you’d rely on. It’s what their parents did, so why think to plan for anything different. But those pensions disappeared and here we are.

To my detriment, I’m a planner, and I woke up this morning around 6am and my brain started “planning.” My mom hasn’t even agreed to the new arrangement yet, and already I’m going through all the possible scenarios, the logistics, the financial and legal details in my head. I’ve made lists, and researched the possibilities, both good and bad, of taking in an aging parent.

But here’s what it boils down to: it’s my turn to return the favor. All the nights she spent pacing the floor, all the financial sacrifices she and my father made, all the emotional collateral they spent raising me has brought me to this moment. It’s time to give back.

I have a fabulous husband, by the way, who happens to share the same responsibility to family that I do. We decided long ago that whether it was his mom or mine (both of our fathers passed away years ago) that we would open our home if we needed to. It’s just what you do.

But convincing my mom to sell her home (that’s falling apart around her), move across the country, and move her entire life into one bedroom (basically) is going to be a hard sell. I get it. Would you do it? Things would have to be pretty bad for me to convince me to do something like that. The opportunity at the end of that bridge would have to be pretty encouraging. And my mom is not one that likes adventure – she’s a planner too.

Fortunately, my brothers and I agree on a plan for Mom. We support each other and her. We just want her to be better off. Her “Golden Years” haven’t been very golden so far, and now we have the chance to help her make them better.

I only hope I remember this when I’m aging and my kids step in to take charge. I hope I remember it’s because of love that they want to see me in a better situation.

Have you taken a parent into your home? I’d love to hear some of your experiences or advice as I go into these uncharted waters.

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Everyone Has Something…

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Next time you’re in a crowd, even a small crowd, look around. Statistically speaking, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that crowd has something in their life that they find challenging. A limitation. Sometimes they wear their challenge on the outside and it’s easy to spot. But more often than that, it’s hidden. It’s under their clothes, it’s under their skin, it’s in their brain. And it’s unique to each person.

Even the people that appear to have it all together, they too have something bubbling just under the surface. No one is immune.

One of the most valuable lessons we can give to our peers is to learn to push through challenges. No matter what life has dealt you, you can use that experience to build or to tear down. And everyone has something.

I think our beauty comes from those “flaws,” from those experiences, and from those challenges.

I think it’s our job, as parents, as teachers, as mentors, to show our children and those around us, our flaws and our challenges, but don’t stop there. It’s our RESPONSIBILITY to show them how we push through our challenges and don’t let them limit us. To show them that even though we have a disease, disorder, or disability, it doesn’t have us.

People watch our every move, our every reaction, especially our children. They look to us for examples of how to handle the stuff that makes up life, both the good and the bad. A parent with a challenge has to shine through their disability, and show their children that it’s not something to stop them from doing what they want in life.

Even when we think our challenge is too big to get over, we can still show our kids what it means to HOPE. But hope isn’t necessarily proactive. Being hopeful can change your state of mind. The lesson is in how we ACT on that hope.

Think about some of our most inspiring people. Why do they inspire us? Usually it’s because they’ve achieved something IN SPITE OF or even BECAUSE OF a limitation. They’ve overcome and made things better for themselves or for those around them.

Everyone HAS something, but not everyone will DO something. How are you going to use your limitation to inspire those around you?

Mom Guilt

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I don’t know if it was an off day for blogs or if I was just more sensitive for some reason. But I ran across several blogs FILLED with Mommy Guilt.

Breast feed vs. formula, co-sleep vs. don’t co-sleep, c-section vs. natural, cloth or disposable…and the list goes on and on.

Parenting is hard, at any stage. We do the BEST WE CAN with WHAT WE’RE GIVEN.

Everyone’s situation is different. No one has walked in another’s shoes.

Do you love your child? Would you lay down your life for that child? Did everything change the moment you laid eyes on that beautiful little face?

Then guess what? YOU ARE THE PERFECT MOTHER FOR YOUR CHILD!

Have all my decisions been perfect? No! When I knew better did I do better? YES!

We are constantly learning, and changing, and adjusting. Not one of us is the perfect mother. NOT ONE!

We are all going to screw up at some point. But our kids are resilient.

Do we all need advice? Sure. Do you mother your child differently than I mother mine? Definitely.

If you find a blog or “advice” that doesn’t sound right to you, or is offensive to you, than it probably wasn’t directed at you.

RELAX.

The best gift you can give your child is yourself…your time, your attention, your guidance.

Are there going to be challenges that will seem to last forever? You bet there will be.

Stop with the Mommy Guilt. It isn’t productive and it doesn’t ever serve a purpose other than to hold you back from being the best mom you can be.

That’s my 2 cents, for whatever it’s worth.

Now go and love your child the best way you know how.

“Uggs” … Instead of Hugs

sunflower-835001_1920I have a teenager in my house.

To those of you who know, just uttering those seven little words implies a multitude of emotions. I am both happy and terrified that she is growing more independent by the day. The list of things that she needs me to do for her grows smaller every day.

There are days when my mere presence annoys her to no end and she retreats to her room. I get it. I know it’s normal. She’s growing up, or trying to, at least. I have to remind myself that it’s a natural part of life. It’s another stage, another season that we must push through to prepare them to be well-balanced and caring adults. It means I’ve done something right…I think.

Hugs are fewer and far between, cuddles are limited to her discretion, and advice is ONLY asked for when no one else is available. At least that’s what it seems like sometimes.

We’ve managed to bridge one delicate area with a bit of a joke. I still insist on giving her a hug before she leaves the house. I’m discrete; I wouldn’t want any friends to know she actually still likes a hug now and then. Instead, we now give “Uggs” instead of “Hugs.” (Not to be confused with the brand name footwear.) It’s what we call “Hugs” in our house. That way, my delicate feelings aren’t hurt when she rolls her eyes as I put my arms around my baby. And “gimme an ugg” is met with much less resistance than “give your mom a hug.” The eye rolling fits better too.

Secretly, I know, she actually likes the “ugg.” I know this because she doesn’t resist. At church the other day, in broad daylight, in front of actual real people, SHE came up to ME and initiated the “ugg,” still complete with eye roll, but it was definitely an “ugg.” I know an “ugg” when I see one.

It nearly knocked me over, not from the force of the “ugg,” but from the shock and awe of the spectacle. I maintained my Mom Cool as best I could, but inside I was crying crocodile tears of joy.

So I’ll take my “ugg’s” for as long as I can get them. And I know one day in the not so distant future, they’ll turn back into hugs. It’s nice to have those assurances once in a while that you’re doing things right.

How do you maintain the parent-child relationship with your teen and still keep from embarrassing them in front of their friends?

My Life is a Mess…

books-818772_1920My life is a mess – a beautiful, wonderful, glorious mess. Can anyone else relate?

I’m not perfectly coiffed; it’s not in my DNA. I don’t like make-up or hair color. I live in yoga pants and t-shirts and would wear them to church if I could. I’m perfectly comfortable in my skin. You get what you see. There’s no different “me” that is revealed when I get into bed at the end of the day.

My house is much the same. Everything is not in its place…ever. I have children and a husband, and there is always a “work in progress” at my house. My “stuff” is on display for everyone to see. I used to apologize for the mess to whoever walked through my front door. But I don’t anymore. Maybe I should, but I don’t.

My home will never be in Better Homes & Garden, unless it’s in the “before” picture. It’s not dirty, but it’s definitely not ready for its photo shoot.

As I look around my house, there is a pile of mail on the counter, a sewing project half-completed, another one stashed in a grocery bag waiting beside the sewing machine, a stack of library books stacked neatly on the table, a box in the corner piled high with old clothes, and a throw wadded up at the end of the couch.

But if you look beyond the obviousness of the mess you will see what lies underneath. The pile of mail on the counter? Those are coupons waiting to be cut out to save my family some money. The sewing projects half-completed or stashed in the corner? They’re Christmas presents in the making. The library books? Those are my kids’ library books, and I love that they know that feeling of getting lost in a book. The box of clothes? They are gently-worn winter clothes waiting to be taken to the church clothes drive. And that throw wadded up at the end of the couch? It’s where I snuggled last night with my kids before one of them fell asleep clutching his favorite stuffed animal.

I tell you this not to boost my ego, or to justify my laziness. I tell you this to remind you that everything you do for your family and others has a purpose. To remind you that some of the best times are in the messes of life. So don’t hide your mess, and certainly don’t apologize for it.

Life can be hard, and busy, and messy, and we can too easily get caught up in wanting to be on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.

When you walk into someone’s house and there’s a mess on the kitchen table, don’t forget to look beyond the mess…embrace the mess and everything it stands for.

What does your mess look like?

My Kids Think I’m an Idiot

My kids think I’m an idiot…maybe I’ll keep it that way.

I don’t mean in an intellectual way, but in a social way. When I first realized my kids thought of me that way, my feelings were hurt, and admittedly, depending on the day, I still feel a little tinge of hurt when  my daughter says “You don’t understand how things are now days” or “things are different now than when you were my age.” Wow…have I really hit THAT age?

And she’s right…things were different 30 years ago. But not as different as SHE thinks they were. We just got into trouble in different ways “back then.” True, we didn’t have the internet that put the world at our fingertips like they do now. Our trouble wasn’t usually on a global scale.

But trouble always managed to find us, just like it will find her.

There are moments of “Mom cool-ness,” like when we’re shopping in Hot Topic and I know the band playing in the background (Bauhaus) and she catches me singing along, to which I’m met with a look of shock and, “YOU know THIS?” I just smile, and nod. Like I said…she thinks I’m an idiot, like I never had a life before I was a mom.

So if they think I’m an idiot when it comes to not knowing what they’re doing when I’m not around, maybe letting them think that way is not such a bad idea after all.

The bottom line is this: what she DOESN’T think I know, I don’t mind keeping from her. But what I DO know will save her a whole lot of grief some day. She just doesn’t always need to know that I know…ya know?

Words of Advice for My Kids

Some of the best advice I ever got for myself, I originally gave to my kids.qualities-954789_1920

  1. Get up and brush yourself off.
  2. Try again.
  3. Be polite. Always say please and thank you.
  4. Be kind.
  5. Listen to one another.
  6. Be patient.
  7. Give it your best effort.
  8. No one expects you to be perfect.
  9. Things will look better in the morning.
  10. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
  11. Sometimes you just need a good cry.
  12. Learning something new can be scary at first.
  13. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  14. Do the very best you can with what you’re given.
  15. If you don’t like the results, try again.
  16. Try something new.
  17. Sometimes hard work is its own reward.
  18. Saying you’re sorry does not mean you’re weak.
  19. Wait your turn.
  20. Be original.
  21. It’s okay to be wrong.
  22. Practice. Practice.
  23. Go read a book.
  24. Eat your vegetables.
  25. Love the best way you can.