Am I “betraying” my Mom if I move across the country?

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I retired over a year ago from a job (in NC) to help my aging parents, the idea being I would move to an apartment close to my sister's home in OH and our parents would move into this apartment where I would take care of them. (For a couple years before that I was making the 10-hr drive to PA each month to check on them.) Our father was still at home being helped by a neighbor, and mother was in a nursing home 10 miles away. However, by the time we carried out this plan and moved to OH, both parents were past the point where they could adequately be cared for at the apartment. Even outside caregivers said they couldn't care for our father who had gone downhill physically very rapidly during the months before the move, so he ended up in a nursing home along with a couple hospital days, and then passed away this past May at 90 y/o. Our now 89 y/o mother, who has gradually-worsening dementia (probably Alzheimer's) didn't adapt well after the move, and even with signs on the walls giving directions to the bathroom, and notation “UP” and “DOWN” on the control of a rented lift chair, she seemed entirely unable to learn anything new, and my sister and I independently realized we simply couldn't keep her in the apartment (my living there, my sister “camping” there for 3 weeks), so our father soon had a roommate in the nursing home. After both were there I visited them every day for about 4 hours, largely making sure they ate as well as they were able (including spoon feeding). Mother is now bedridden.

After the lease for the apartment expired, I moved in with my sister's family where I have been almost a couple months. From here I still visit our mother the nursing home every day I'm in town (I'm doing some consulting which involves travel), and my sister visits about 3 times a weeks as she has been doing. However, there are some issues in my sister's house that make living there less than appealing and actually rather stressful, but the worst is basically I have my clothes on the floor because there is literally no other space because of all my sister's stuff (and her buying, hoarding, cluttering, and overdecorating irritates her husband and son, too).

I have been planning to move to NM, thinking that I would do this after both parents are gone, and my mother made a comment that suggested she assumes I would stay as long as she is alive. However, I believe my mother could realistically live another year or two. A few weeks ago my BIL mentioned that he wants me to pay rent that he'll put into his son's educational account, and I will pay this although I feel a certain resentment because of the situation described above. I could seek an apartment somewhere nearby so I can keep visiting my mother every day, but I don't really want to remain in the area. I've thought of making my move to NM sometime this fall, with the idea I would come back to visit every couple months or so (I don't mind, and actually enjoy, long-distance driving and, of course, there are airlines). I figure I'd rather spend the rent money to be someplace I want to be. One thing that's keeping me here is that our mother, who is private pay, has assets great enough that unless she lives to 105, my sister and I will have the inheritance she and our father wanted us to have, so I feel somewhat “guilty” if I don't stay around to visit each day as long as she is living in order to “earn” it (not to imply I don't love her and wouldn't want to visit even if she didn't have it, although it does get a bit tedious at times). On the other side, my sister is still her and will visit (and has POA although my BIL feels I should take over), and of course the nursing home cares for her. BTW our mother asks what the NH costs, and I tell her $200/day, and then she asks how we manage that, and we say there's no need to worry about it. I'm 62, and I won't be getting any younger if I stay here.

Sorry for the long story, but I figure I need to give the whole picture. Have others had similar experiences?

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Jacobson, worry less about offending people you don't stay with :)

For one thing, there's no need for a grown man to apologise for preferring his own space, behind his own front door; and for another while it's lovely to have house guests, it's also lovely when they go… so those family members, while they'd hardly be so rude as to cheer loudly when you tell them you're moving on, won't necessarily be heartbroken if you want to get your own place.

Wasn't there something about a college fund for the nephew? - it sounds as if there's plenty of time to worry about that later, though. Why not just get comfortable while you wait.
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Thanks, again, to everyone for your comments and suggestions! (I've been traveling for the past 10 days or so, and am playing “catchup” right now.) I liked the way Countrymouse suggested the word “deserve” rather than “earn”--this is a good point and is more accurate.

My reasons for wanting to go to New Mexico are several but include the following: drier, warmer climate but not as hot as lowland Arizona; variety of natural regions within a day's drive (access to two distinct desert regions, various mountain ranges, Great Plains to the east, etc.), which is valuable to a field biologist; a medium-sized city having a state university with natural history museums (NMSU in Las Cruces, where I plan to go); relative freedom from natural disasters (no earthquakes, too little vegetation to support fires, too far west for tornadoes, little frozen winter precipitation); and a reasonable cost of living, including apartments and gasoline prices.

I'm going to “compromise” by waiting a little while before doing anything. Although my sister has POA (she said I'm listed as a backup for her), I can gently prod her to make sure the important things get done on a timely basis. Once all the assets are in our mother's name (instead of our father's name or held jointly), things should be simpler. Most of my consulting work will be done for the year quite soon (it is essentially seasonal and on a national basis, but very little if any is expected during the winter), so I can concentrate on working with my sister to get these things accomplished. If it gets too frustrating at the house, I may look for a small apartment locally. I'll admit I hate having to spend another winter in the eastern part of the country, especially if it is like last year's!

When I arrived back here yesterday and went straight to the nursing home, my mother was glad to see me but didn't realize I had been away over a week. My sister and her husband were away on vacation so I didn't want our mother not to have someone visiting any longer than necessary. By the way, I was invited to the condo where my sister was, and went for a couple day, and I had to explain to my BIL that the reason I wasn't staying longer was that I wanted to get back to see our mother. I gave my BIL some money, and he wondered why I felt the need to do that. I'm back in the house with my nephew, and I realize his pet dog and cat are a sizable part of my frustration because one has to take so many precautions to keep them from getting into everything! If I move out, I can explain that I'm simply not an “animal person” so they don't feel offended.
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jacobson i feel for you as i am in a worse situation in that i live with mum and want to move from this town i have a brother down the road but I want to move abroad to Spain so even if mum was in a NH up the road i couldnt depend on my brother to visit and take care of things in a NH? So i do feel trapped here even if she was in a NH i cant leave and get on with my life until she passes?

I think youre a marvellous son AND lucky that you have your sister nearby to your mums home and yes you can come home when your sister needs a break!

Life is short and its getting shorter by the day GO live your life because if had my sister here or nearby i would be living my dream and i cant yet? so do it for you and do it for us here who just cant move where wed like to! My neighbours dad has had ALz for 12years hes in great health hes 86yrs old and is still doing well? SO we never know how long this could last?
Yes if your sister wasnt there it would be harder so be a supportive brother when you can but move to where you will be happy and best of luck to you!
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Oo well now.

Thank you for being so clear. And thank you, too, for being so candid not only with us, but also with yourself. Some of the things you mentioned - the tedium, the moderate resentment - struck particular chords with me; but many people are too embarrassed by these 'unworthy' feelings to acknowledge them.

"Betraying" is a very loaded word, you know. How, betraying? No, you wouldn't be betraying your mother; but that's not to say you might not regret moving to NM at this precise stage.

From your description of your mother's dementia, coming back to see her at reasonable intervals would be a waste of time and money - very rapidly, she would lose all knowledge of who you are and would not benefit from your visits. So: if you want to maintain your mother's benefiting from your care and attention, you'll have to stick around for the duration. Continuity is all. Would she suffer if you vanished over the horizon? No, not really. She is well cared for, you could ensure that remained so when you do visit, she would come to no additional harm. But that's not really the point, is it? You are a good, loving child; your sister ditto; you've been there for your mother because she's your mother. And that hasn't changed.

I agree with the consensus that there is no sense in continuing to live at your sister's house. The nephew's college fund is a worthy cause, but the discomfort and inconvenience are more than you should be expected to contribute to it. Have you looked at reasonably priced short to medium term lets, locally? Is there nothing available? Your sister's hoarding… love us and save us. If you feel inclined to tackle it, good for you, and good luck with it, but that's a hiding to nothing if ever there was one. There is certainly no reason why you should have to live among it.

Your BIL's idea that you take over the POA - unless you are named as deputy within the existing documentation - is a non-starter.

Why New Mexico, out of pure nosiness? The weather? The scenery? The ready availability of your preferred consulting work?

As regards the inheritance, the feeling that you ought to stick around to earn it - I would say deserve, rather than earn - is probably coming from you, as a sort of inverted gratitude, because you are a nice child with an appropriate sense of filial duty. But your parents made their arrangements in good time, long ago. There is no residual obligation to fulfil.

I suppose my feeling is that if you move before your mother passes away you risk spoiling the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar. No one would get hurt, but I suspect you might feel a sense of lasting dissatisfaction with yourself. Treading water is tedious and irksome (tell me about it); but you sound like the sort of person who is more than capable of using your time spent in limbo well. Why jump the gun?
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Good point, freqflyer; sometimes my mother wonders how I knew where she was, and then I remind her that she had been there almost a year, which surprises her. Ba8alou's suggestion looks like a good one, too. BTW as far as I know I DON'T have secondary POA, but I can help advise my sister if necessary as she has relatively little knowledge about financial matters. My father had put into place some sort of health directives that designate me as the one to authorize "pulling the plug" if there is no hope of recovery because he realizes it would be a much more emotional issue for my sister; in his case there was no plug to pull (other than what nature did unaided!).
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There's this thing in experimental psychology; intermittent reinforcement works best. If your mom doesn't know when you're going to show up, she won't worry. Works for me.
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jacobsonbob, I believe our Moms still think we are young children who can't find our way in the world even if we are in our 60's.... and if you are single and not in a relationship, they worry even more.
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Thanks, everyone, for your comments! It helps to have suggestions representing different viewpoints. Just to clarify a bit more, my sister is in a roomy 5-bedroom house (three of which are full of "unnecessary" items, including the one I'm sleeping in). Her husband has his corner where he does his consulting work mostly on his computer, and their 23 y/o son stays in his room almost all day using his computer, partly for school, and probably couldn't care less that I'm even around. My sister has no set pattern, but I'm the only one who actually has a conversation with her. I didn't mean to convey the impression that this is a 1950s happy family all nicely seated around the dinner table which I've invaded (in fact, we all just independently eat what we want, when we want and where we want, and I buy most of my own food); I believe both my sister and her husband actually want me there--the former appreciating my preventing the latter from throwing out family heirlooms and photos, and the latter hoping I can convince the former to get counseling. However, I don't think they would resent my leaving, either, although I occasionally find myself in the middle trying to keep the peace. In any case, I think I'll wait a couple months until late autumn to see how my mother is doing before moving, but I'll go and seriously scout my target in NM for apartments, etc. a month or so beforehand.

Some days my mother has said "you don't have to come every day", but then on others the staff tells me she was worried about me all day because I wasn't there (I don't come until about 5 PM, but she doesn't keep track of time well). Thus, I get mixed signals from day to day.

The comments about life not being guaranteed certainly make sense. I lost vision in my dominant eye are few years ago due to a retinal detachment, so I want to enjoy life before anything happens to the other eye (of course I'm hoping it doesn't!).

Thanks again, and all the best to everyone!
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I agree with everyone else, move and don't feel guilty about it. Be as gracious as you can to your sister and BIL, it sounds like you're all trying to do the best you can for your families, which is unusual on this site. Best wishes to all of you.
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Move. Life is not a guarantee. You need to enjoy it, now. You have put in the necessary care of your parents and your life has been put on hold. There is always the chance that your mom will outlive you.

I moved. I am in AZ. and am 60. Mom is 95 and is in IL. She always traveled and lived where she wanted. I will, too.
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