My father passed away last fall and my wife and I brought my mother to live with us for the winter.
In the spring, I took her back to her home, in a small and somewhat isolated outport in Newfoundland, where she knew she would be surrounded by friends and where, in the summer, a stream of family would make their way through.
It wasn’t surprising to me that not long after her arrival she was finding it pretty lonely. Aside from the fact that a three bedroom home is a big space for one person, there was little purpose to the day, and even though friends dropped by or phoned occasionally, the day was spent almost entirely alone.
I had more than a few conversations with her about that, as I spoke to her nightly, and it didn’t take her long to make the decision that this was not something she would want for too long.
During my visit to her in the summer, we went and looked at various eldercare options. While it made perfect sense to me that she return to my home for the fall and winter, that was not an option she felt particularly comfortable with.
Her greatest fear was that if something happened to her medically, we’d be “burdened” with her care. She wanted her independence and our independence.
She’s a stubborn woman; I had no reason compelling enough to convince her differently.
She began the process of jumping through the various medical hoops necessary to clear her as a potential home resident (no communicable diseases) and to rate her level of dependence for care services. Frankly, she could be running the place.
The process was held up a few times with various people going on holidays, some test results being uncertain and some complications in her being able to get to appointments and tests at times that were convenient for the system. With no transit system and an hour drive to every appointment, she was dependent on the kindness of friends, and the availability of their schedules.
Just a few days ago, she received a phone call confirming that she was accepted into a home. She will go from a three-bedroom home to a single room half the size of the smallest room in her current house. It will be an adjustment, for sure, but she is looking forward to the company of others, the prepared meals and the worry-free existence that she perceives will be her future.
The next two weeks will be spent packing the one suitcase full of things that she’ll be able to fit in her room.
I have my reservations, of course. Most of that is driven by my guilt that somehow I have abandoned her. I probably shouldn’t have watched the movie Happy Gilmore recently.
Still, I must accept that it is her right to choose and simply ensure that she knows that if it doesn’t turn out to be what she wants, that our door is always open. I wish we were closer by so that we could visit regularly. But we’ll simply have to continue with the nightly phone calls to let her know we’re thinking of her.
Life has many uncertainties and dramatic change can happen in a moment. I suppose I should be happy that she’s healthy, capable of making her own decision and beginning a new phase of her life that might be a wonderful one.
That will certainly be my communication to her, although I will not likely feel settled in her decision until she is truly comfortable and happy in the situation.
Graham Hookey writes on education, parentingand eldercare. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.