Care options for Mom with brain tumor and mobility issues.

Started by

My mother-in-law lives in PA, my hubby and I (nd our two small kids) live in TX.

Mom had a brain tumor removed earlier this week - hopefully benign, though we're still waiting to hear. She came out of the operation with good mental capabilities, however unfortunately has lost the use of both limbs on one side (she had gradually been losing function over the last couple of weeks before the operation but now has no use at all).

The hospital is confident that with hard work at the in-patient rehab facility (which starts next week) they can get her onto her feet and mobile with maybe a walking frame. However they are concerned because they don't feel she really 'wants' to get better, and is resisting hey every attempt to assist her. More than one professional has pointed out that she is in 'denial'.

Mom is 61 and lives alone in a condo with about a hundred cats. She works 3 jobs in order to provide for sister-in-law, who has some mental health issues and is totally dependent on both Mom's money and her day-to-day care. There are no other family members living. At this point Mom is insistent that she will go back to her own home and resume work as soon as possible. Mom's home is really not suitable for someone with mobility issues and it's hard to imagine how it could be adapted for her (think multiple levels, narrow steep staircases, low ceilings, narrow doorways, flight of stone steps to the front door, etc).

We are extremely concerned about her going home alone. She has had seizures before the operation (luckily around other people every time, who could call for help) and the doctor has warned us that those will likely continue. The doctor has told her she must not drive any more - so even if her home could be adapted, she will be isolated at the top of a huge hill in an area away from any amenities or services.

We have invited Mom to move in with us - we have room, a house that could easily be adapted for her, and would be happy to have her, however she does not wish to leave the area she lives in. She does, however want us to move over there so we can all buy a house together and we can help care for her (and, by default, for sister-in-law).

I should point out that we are not people of means - Mom is underwater on her condo and has around $30K to her name in an IRA, and that's it. We would also stand a loss if we sold this house (we only just bought it after years of saving the down-payment during hubby's military service) and would be moving to a new state with no jobs to go to. I am the breadwinner and earn around $40K in a good year, my hubby stays home with our youngest and receives a very modest military pension/disability payment. So, I don't know how we would ever be able to buy this house she speaks of to live in together, anyway!

We are totally overwhelmed with how best to help Mom. We do want to assist her but we cannot bankrupt ourselves in the process - we have small kids to consider. On the other hand, we cannot just walk away and wait for a call to say someone found her at the bottom of her basement steps!

Hubby is still in PA right now with his Mom, trying to help her prepare for whatever cmes next. But he has to come home next weekend because my employer, as kind and accommodating as they have been over the past month while he has been away and I've needed to juggle patchy childcare, need me to get back to my normal full-time work. I haven't slept in about 2 weeks. So I would welcome someone being able to throw out some ideas or perspectives...


It sounds like there's not a lot you can do in this situation. You've invited her to live with you and she's refused. So unless you get guardianship of her through an attorney proving she is deemed unable to care for herself at all, she has the right to do whatever she wants to do. If I were you, I would just keep your offer open. You've done all you can do and shouldn't be losing sleep and feeling guilty about it. It's not right nor fair for her to ask you and your family to move up there - especially with no house or employment situation. Plus, the cost of living is higher in PA than it is in TX - so you should also factor that in if you were to move. You may want to start seeing if she qualifies for Medicaid, and see if she is able to move into senior apartments or something where she will have a little help. Check with Senior Services too. They may have some ideas for things in her area too. Good luck!
Most of us are 'victims' of our choices. Sadly, your Mom doesn't seem to be making wise choices right now. She is choosing to decline your offer to share your home with her. She has chose to have 100+ cats live with her?! Is there anyone in PA that can help? Can you speak with the hospital social worker to get at home help? Sometimes it takes a few days of bungling things before someone realizes their solution won't work. Moving yourself will not resolve any part of this issue.
Your responsibilities are to your children, to yourself, to your marriage, and to providing financial stability for all of those to flourish.

Right now Mom is in a world of hurt and perhaps a world of denial. If you and Hubby give up the house you've worked so hard to achieve and move half way across the country, hoping you can find a good job there, then all of you will be in a world of hurt. That is not a viable solution. Please, do not even give that serious consideration.

Probably the best solution at this point would be to find a senior apartment near you that Mom could move into with her daughter. But how do her cats fit into this picture? Few rental situations would allow more than one or two pets, if that. And, since Mom is not willing to consider moving, that doesn't sound viable either.

Please do not put your children and your marriage and your financial stability at risk to pursue a path that will not lead to a solution in any case.

Mom has to deal with the reality she's been given. It's not fair that she had a brain tumor (any more than cancer or dementia or other illnesses are fair). My heart goes out to her. She is an adult who is allowed to make her own decisions, even self-destructive decisions.

Hugs to all of you!
Thank you so much for all of your replies!

It's been a rollercoaster week. Mom has been in rehab for over a week and on Friday the staff called my hubby into a multi-disciplinary meeting to say she is not cooperating or advancing at all. She is basically lying under her duvet crying. The onsite mental health team is trying to work with her but not getting very far. The insurance has (after much negotiating) agreed she can stay in the rehab for an additional 2 weeks (so a month total), but after that she's pretty much 'on her own'. They wanted to know whether we would like to consider paying for her to move to a step-down facility - which costs more per month than our total income, so that would be a 'no'.

It's a complete nightmare, but we are realizing that your comments above are all correct. She is an adult, not one of our children. We can offer to help but our own family must come first. It's not going to be easy to sit back and watch the catastrophe unfold, though :-(

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support