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Inside and Out: Adulting never is easy

by Steve Harrison

Adulting can be hard, even at 65. I find myself in the midst of parenting without any experience and, to make it more treacherous, I’m parenting my 89-year-old mother. My mom, quite strong- willed with a history of getting her own way, is facing a certain degree of cognitive impairment that makes her brain unreliable. Many of you, I’m sure, have faced this with a loved one. My family has, too. My mom and dad took care of both of their mothers in their home until that was no longer feasible or safe. I figure that both of my grandmothers lived at least five years longer than fated because of the care my parents gave them.

I’m not so willing to sacrifice my home, my patterns, my mental health, and to some degree, my life, to provide the same amount of care for my own mom. I feel a tremendous amount of guilt and grief admitting this. My dad died 20 years ago, and so since then it has been my husband, me, and my mom, but my mom lived a very comfortable 24 miles away.

Now, because of her cognitive instability, it doesn’t seem wise for her to continue in her house. She has done very well: worked until she was 80, and drove until a couple of years ago, when she got lost and was found 12 hours later, nearly 100 miles away. During COVID, she saw almost no one other than us. We do her shopping and take her to the doctor or any place else she needs to go. To be fair, my mom asks for very little, really doesn’t try to dish out guilt, and is really quite happy to be left alone, sitting in her chair staring out the window for hours on end.

In the last two years, John and I have been investigating various living arrangements that would better suit life at 89 for my mom and for us. Little did we know that there are lots of people out there who specialize in elder care. Our counselor, Belinda, has been a font of information, sending us details about different kinds of facilities, and connecting us with people who can give us financial advice, letting us know the array of feeling s we experienced were totally common, as she went through the same things with her own parents.

I dragged my feet for a long time about this ultimate step. My mom has made it clear that she doesn’t want to move, and I have made it clear that 24 miles is too far away for her to be living alone. We’ve had caregivers come in a couple of times a week and that has worked fine, until it hasn’t. The toilet is over-flowing, the kitchen faucet is spraying water everywhere, she locked herself out of the house, she decided to trim a tree and ended up with 20 staples in her head, and the dog needs to go to vet — all fall on my shoulders at random and unexpected times.

In an effort to keep her safe and provide a better, more stimulating environment, I have finally signed the paperwork to move her into an assisted living environment. It seems nice enough: a restaurant, instead of a cafeteria; a bistro, instead of a Starbucks; a demonstration kitchen; an in-house theatre, beauty parlor, game room, and library, all within a safe, short walk.

So, the time has come and yesterday while talking to my mom, I reminded her that the movers would be coming in a couple of days. I was met with “I! DO! NOT! WANT! TO! MOVE!” in as firm a voice as she could muster. I heard the phrase five more times before she said she had to hang up and go pick dandelions. So here I am at 65, trying to figure out how to provide my mom safety, encouragement, stability, and hope when she is losing age’s battle. I find myself unprepared for the challenge.

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