Mom has lost all confidence being left alone again after living with my sister for 6 months. Any advice? -

Mom has lost all confidence being left alone again after living with my sister for 6 months. Any advice?


Mom (85) tried out an independent living community close by. She was staying with my family in the southern US from September-April. She went up north to get her house ready to sell and had a fall spraining her leg. She is now at my sisters for 6-8 weeks and sister has convinced mother that she needs constant care. Assisted living or living with each of us for 6 mos. for the last week sister refuses all my phone calls and the one time she let me talk with mom she had lost all confidence and thought she could never be left alone again. She gets anxious around sister but it is going to be hard to rescue her from several states away. Please comment

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All of the moving around that she's done could be confusing for her. It seems as though assisted living may be the answer. She's afraid for a reason - the fall is, as was said, a red flag. With a familiar environment and people around she may regain some sense of confidence. If you can, try to visit so that you have a better feel for what is going on.

We'd love to have you update us when you can,
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At 85, your mother is probably hiding at least one worrisome development from you -- driving snafus, checkbook mix-ups, secret falls, etc. If you are thinking, "not my mom," keep reading this forum.

AL sounds ideal. Mom can fly solo to the degree that she wants, but has support at the ready. And she can reach out for that support without the "help me but don't tell me what to do" stalemate that most elderly parents foist on their adult children.

You are at a crossroads here. Mom is probably not just "acting out." Babalou's advice is a perfect start.

Also, not to sound harsh, but you need to deal with what IS. Not what mom was or wasn't 1 year ago or 10 years ago. And not what you wish mom was. These are hard years. Keep your eyes wide open.
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Go up there and see for yourself. Falls with injury are a red flag. It is very possible she needs Assisted Living. If that makes her feel safer, let her do it.
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Don't frame this as a "rescue". When you say your sister "refuses" your phone calls, do you mean that she doesn't pick up, doesn't return them, or what?

What are mom's impairments, from a doctor's point of view? Is she safe being alone? Was she attempting to pack up her house alone? At 85? Doesn't seem like good judgement, if she was.

Talk to your sister and try to get an agreement from all involved to get mom a thorough evaluation of her physical, cognitive and mental health so that you can make a reasonable and safe plan, going forward.
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In my mother's case, her mental condition deteriorated when she moved away from home. I didn't realize just how dependent she'd become on her daily "routines" -- doing everything exactly in the same way, knowing exactly where everything was stored -- and didn't realize the extent to which her mild dementia had taken hold. Simply moving her to another environment was very confusing to her. She calls me almost every day, saying she'd lost something (or maybe someone took it -- mild paranoia). My point is, that her mental condition may be worse than you realize -- simply because she's no longer in her home. Many of the other comments here ring true with my own experience. (This is a good site!) In my mom's case, I'm hopeful that over time, her new environment will become familiar to her, she'll develop new routines, and be less stressed -- and much of her mental ability will come back to her. Pre-move, she read books daily and we'd have normal in-depth discussions about them. Post-move, she won't even pick up a book -- says she has too much on her mind and can't concentrate. I didn't realize the depth of her mental problems until I started going through things in her house, finding unanswered mail, important documents "filed" all over the place, and other signs that she'd lost her grip on things. I hope your mom finds a good place to live, where her needs can be looked after, and where she can feel safe and comfortable.
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Your sister may be right. Go up there and assess the situation yourself.
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If ever there were two siblings who have had a life-long, dysfunctional, contenscious, adversarial relationship- it's me and my brother. Yet 5+ years ago when our parents crisised at the same time we consciously decided to put that aside to work together to help our parents. It hasn't been easy and there have certainly been bumps in the road - but if we can do it, anyone else can. It's "give and take" - compromise- but it can be done. Fix things with your sister and together work to figure out what's best for your mom.
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Assisted living seems like a good option. It will give her a chance to find out what she can do, with a lot of support. If she is anxious around your sister, going to "neutral" grounds might be a good choice. Would she prefer Southern or Northern climate?
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Hi, Snowbird7, good for you for looking for input, I'm confused about your description, that your mom had tried an independent living community "close by". That sounds good also - did she like it? Do you mean close to you?

Wherever she does live now, it would be good to be close by to one of her children. Visiting for her going out, gets harder with age, and it's very nice for mom if she lives near one of her children, so that regular visits are simpler and easier, so family stays in touch and are there to see when she needs help.

You say she has been staying with your family for the last 7 months - is that not what your sister is suggesting? Maybe you have different ideas mostly in the specific labels and ideas about independence, but in reality, you are both concerned and want to see that she has both help and family nearby.

It's really hard to have conversations among adult siblings about care - lifestyle differences, perceptions of status in the world and in the family, ages, different memories and ideas about care, different outside support systems for each sibling. If you can contact your sibling and actually demand a conversation, find some way, even email, that you both list your ideas of what your mom needs, and talk for maybe 2 scheduled times without your mom present, to compare and share, it can show your understanding of the need to work with your sister now, Come up with some ideas and start to explore real options Those may help to come up with some kind of plan, and you will both value each others efforts and your mom will value those as well..

Getting along with your sister would help your mom, it is disconcerting for parents to see their children unable to work together. That's how it goes when moms age, and I've seen it good in the end, as the process makes adult siblings have to deal with each other, even if it's really difficult in so many families.

It took me years to deal with my brothers. But it mattered. Most moms really feel better when they see that their children will be good to each other and find ways to work well together. You are lucky to have 2 sisters in the family, who both want to be involved in her care - if you have other sibs, it could be good to try to talk with them too, about a difficult situation which will have losses and changes, just not easy to plan, when we are not sure when they'll come. All best wishes!
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It's important for us to remember that CHANGE means LEARNING. And learning is something that is increasingly difficult/stressful and, eventually, impossible for people who have brain disease -- which is what dementia is. It is NOT just loss of memory, it affects everything that the brain affects...which is everything. So, every time one CHANGES HOME ENVIRONMENT, remembering/learning has to occur. If you've ever had a vacation home or even spent 2-3 weeks getting around in someone else's kitchen, you know that "re-entry" when you return home can mean saying, "now where did I put that" or "I KNOW I bought a new bottle of ketchup" because -- even for just a few seconds -- one is re-adapting to the "new" environment: learning/remembering.

In my own experience, and I don't have dementia (I hope!) this gets harder and harder to do with age, but it happened to me at 35 when we had a ski place. Every winter I had to learn/remember what I had there and where I'd put it! And then I could be positive that I had just bought 2 cans of tomatoes, but they were not in my home pantry when I looked.

For this reason, I don't think moving Mom from one sister's home to the other every six months is a good idea AT ALL. Whether she lives permanently with one of her children or in an Assisted Living facility near one of them, I think you are all going to have to face up to the fact that it will be YOU that does the "moving", back and forth to visit her as your own lives and circumstances permit. Just as you did when she was living independently in her own home.

The prospect of packing up (!) and physically moving out of her own home after she has had weeks of living with family and being looked after/waited on/assisted would, in my view, be overwhelming -- especially at 85 and having already suffered a fall. Your Mom is frightened and -- trust me -- it's GOOD that she is feeling she shouldn't be alone! This forum gets so many posts from children who are beside themselves because parents who CANNOT take proper care of themselves are refusing/resisting moving to some other situation. One can empathize with those parents too. However, I think there is no question that the greatest gift parents can give to their children is to make the decision to move to a safer, more assisted environment -- preferably BEFORE they must, but certainly at such time as there begin to be falls, difficulty managing medications, paying bills, etc.

Being 85 or 90 or even older does not equal dementia, but dementia IS age related so all the advice about Mom having a thorough neurological and physical work up is excellent. If there's any way for you to be present during those examinations, I would recommend it -- at least get whoever is present to have Mom sign the necessary consent forms (HIPA privacy laws) that will permit the doctor to share information about your Mom/his or her patient with whomever she has authorized -- hopefully ALL her children.

My last word is to all the children of parents who you worry about: make sure that you make all the preparations (Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Desire for a Natural Death, financial, etc.) AND that you promise yourselves and your children NOW that you will be brave enough and loving enough to not put your own children in the place you are in right now. Rather, decide now -- before you have to -- that you WILL leave your "own" home but a new home, that will also make YOURS, in a place that provides for your own safety and needs better than any of us can provide for them at some point in our lives. Or at least, for heaven's sake, DON'T make them promise they will "never put me in a home"! That is SO unfair; please don't burden your children with promises that no one should ever make! And those of you who are caring for a spouse -- and have learned the very hard way what is necessary to care for someone who is ill...have you made arrangements and decisions for YOURSELF so that your children will not have to? The time to control our own future is our own present. Angels watch over you, Snowbird711, and all of us as we "age" with "care"! Lolli
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