ASK EMORY • BY EMORY LUCE BALDWIN
Question: I just hung up the phone with my sister who lives halfway across the country. She wants me to come to a “family meeting” to talk about how to get our mother to move out of her home and into some kind of assisted living apartment.
Mom recently fell and broke her wrist, and is now recovering in her home with daily help my sister. When I asked Mom what she wanted me to do, she said firmly, “No meetings!”
So now what do I do? I don’t want to be part of pushing Mom to do something she doesn’t want to do, but I also don’t want to be accused of leaving my sister with all the burdens of caring for our mother while she grows increasingly frail and dependent.
Emory: So your sister has already tried to talk your mother into doing what she wants her to do — move out of her home and into assisted living. Your mother says, “no way,” and now your sister is calling in more family members to try to out-vote Mom. Maybe your sister feels scared when she considers the future, and imagines what she might be called to do to help your mother out in the years to come. But its still Mom’s life and as long as she isn’t mentally impaired in some way, she gets to have her own way.
Older folks can work out for themselves what the it would mean to stay in their own homes or move to a new place, where they may have to give up a lot of personal privacy and autonomy. Or not. Some assisted living situations provide dignity, social support, and can even extend their resident’s independence for many years. The dilemma is that neither your mother nor your siblings can know for sure unless and until your mother is willing to consider the risks and benefits of making a change, as well as the risks and benefits of staying where she is.
This is a big and difficult decision, yet it doesn’t have to be done as a fight or a high pressure “convincing.” Respecting your mother’s position right now may well open the way for her to make good decisions later. Consider how the conversation might go if you were to say the following to your mother:
- We respect that it is your choice to stay in your own home.
- We respect that your choice makes sense and seems reasonable to you.
- We will not disrespect you by trying to change your mind or dissuade you–even though our concerns are inspired by our love for you.
- In the meantime, we have serious, important concerns and questions. We would like to share these concerns and questions with you, if you are willing to listen to them; and we respect your choice if you choose not to listen to them.
- One of those concerns is for our sister’s health and energy. She has reasonable limits about how much care she should be expected to provide for you if your health fails.
- We respect that you may need time to consider what we have said.
- We respect that you will want to decide this at your own pace and in your own way.
- Even if your decisions are very different from the choices we would prefer you make, we will respect them and do what we can within reasonable limits to honor them.