Who cares! Mom’s are commonly dumped into nursing homes, extended healthcare facilities, and left alone to fend for themselves in their own residence. They eventually become too much to handle, take up too much of your time watching out for them, and reach a point where they need institutional care-just exactly the same place you will be 20 to 30 years from now. Don’t want to think about that…right?
What happens during those years may interfere with your mom’s care, even prevent you from helping her at all. My mother was one of those. Being a small farm girl raised during the great depression of the late 1920s and 1930s when being independent and on your own for survival was the trend, she never asked for, nor expected, anyone to help her during her life. She usually refused help when it was volunteered.
Mom in her later years was widowed and lived alone in her HUD apartment a thousand miles away from any family member. She flat refused to move closer to her family in spite of a series of persuasive offers by her family members. As time passed, she became so weak and fell so many times that she wore out the local fire and rescue team that arrived to help her up. Mom needed 24/7 care and moved to the local skilled nursing care facility.
Let’s look at the various ways you have to meet your mother’s health needs in those last few years.
1. Old people neglect their health care: The trouble of arranging transportation to and from the doctor’s office, having prescriptions filled and picked up at the pharmacy, and understanding what the doctor tells her and who won’t take the time to insure she understands, is enough to make anyone avoid the health care system altogether.
Arranging all those steps for your mother is very important. Don’t leave it to neighbors or public transportation.
The advantage you have is to sit in on the doctor visit to hear everything the doctor explains to mom. Although mom won’t admit it, she likely will never remember most of what she is told by the doctors and nurses. And, you know who gets the phone call from mom and the job of explaining it all back to her again! If you weren’t there with her, you can’t explain anything to her and she is left to struggle with the prescription medications and forgotten advice.
2. Your job as a confidant and adviser: Mothers often won’t admit to being hard of hearing, incompetent in buttoning her blouse, or forgetful of many normal daily chores that need to be done. You need to cleverly find the niche in her armor and that is most effectively done by gently making it obvious you are there for her anytime 24/7, and are more than happy to talk with her about troublesome issues. Just the promise of this availability is reassuring enough to her self-esteem.
Sometimes, just knowing you are there and available will prevent depression, anxiety, and the feeling of helplessness.
3. Nutrition factors: Seniors typically give up cooking foods like they used to do. It’s a lot easier to pop a microwave dinner into the microwave now and then. Appetite is decreased as a result of less demand from a body that has little activity, less exercise, and less caloric requirements. Often a senior will pick one or two foods they like and only eat those daily. It results in lack of balanced nutrients, vitamins, and required proteins such as certain amino acids.
When mom does not live with you, you really don’t know what her nutrition is lacking. Make sure she has a bottle of good multivitamins, enough food ready to eat and drink in the frig, and some red wine to sip on daily to supplement her nutrition.
4. Safety Considerations: The tendency to fall down as a result of poor depth perception, fading vision, weakened leg muscles, and lack of attention to their surroundings, invites catastrophe. It’s a great help in prevention of falls if you eliminate rugs they can trip over, furniture that becomes unstable with use, moving items to lower shelves where older ladies can easily reach them, give away her shoes with leather soles, install bath and shower bars as well as hand rails at any place she must go up and down steps, make latches on doors easy to open, and remove any items that can fall on her from high up storage spots.
5. Establish good communication devices: Place telephones in easy places to reach. Better yet, have her carry a cell phone she can keep in her pocket while she ambulates around inside or outside her residence. Pay for or lease the electronic devices available she can wear on the wrist, around the neck on a lanyard, or clip on her dress. These remote devices are especially useful for moms to have when they live far away from the family, in remote areas of the country, and in places where there is no person to check on her several times a day.
All she needs to do is push a button on the wrist device and it automatically, in wireless mode, connects to the regular land line phone across the room from where she fell, automatically calls the assigned phone number of the “Alert” company, and a live person can speak to mom from where she lies and can’t get up to immediately obtain help for mom.
6. Money worries: For seniors money is a constant worry. When their bank account gets low, then they start skipping doctor appointments and eat less. Make sure their money is readily available to them while mom is still alert, clear minded, and oriented to time and place. When mom becomes a little cloudy mentally, it’s time for you to pay close attention to her accounts and cash. Home health care workers can and will swipe things from mom’s apartment, from money to household items-and that’s not a
7. Hidden trauma problems: Seniors do not want others to think they are deteriorating to a point where they are unable to take care of themselves. They hide the bruises, cuts, and abrasions that occur and others might perceive as incompetence. Pain, stomach aches, bad headaches, arthritis of joints with decreased range of motion, and they’ll also keep you from noticing.
Always be alert to the fact that good ole mom might be purposely hiding health problems from you.
8. The mental side of aging: The most traumatic problem mom’s face is the thought that their mind is no longer clear or stable. One of the first symptoms to show up is losing track of recent memory, people’s names, and dates. Forgetting to take medications or to take them at proper intervals can be very serious-under-dosing, and bad health problems return-over-dosing, and suffer bad side effects seems somewhat common in elderly folks.
Organizing mom’s medicines for her is a great help to her as well as being a smart way to avoid overdosing problems. Or, just checking how she organizes her meds and takes them. Nursing homes are well known for medication errors, missed doses, and patient care neglect. So, when possible, check out these things thoroughly.
9. Keeping the mind active: It’s quite clear from medical studies that those who exercise their minds live longer and delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Whether doing crossword puzzles, knitting, or using your mind to resolve problems, there is a significant and measurable increase in amount of the brain activating hormones, like Serotonin. Do mentally stimulating projects with your mother, or have her do them by herself daily. Keep reminding her often of the importance of exercising the brain.
10. Emotional connections: When mom continues to get mail, phone calls, stop-ins frequently, she remains connected to family. When that ceases, mom will not live much longer. When mom is well established in her residence, way of life, friends she sees daily, fun events she enjoys locally, and has a well established comfort zone, it is unwise to yank her out of there and force her to live with you or near you.
What it does is destroy all her relationships, disrupts all her familiar surroundings which have given her mental comfort, and exposes her to all the insecurity she has been trying to avoid at this time in her life.
Do this, and she will deteriorate rapidly and pass away.
No matter what you believe about mom being better off by changing her long time living conditions or being near the family who love her and should make her even happier, the psychologic and psychiatric expectations might not result in your favor. And, that would be a risk I wouldn’t take.
Give mom a break! Let her make her own decisions as long as she is capable. And, when the time
comes when she is not capable, she won’t have the mental capacity to regret her previous decision and will quickly adapt to her nursing home living for the most part. She will always have a few complaints, but they usually are about her healthcare.