Let me say first that I am so glad I found this site. The people here are amazing and I am humbled and blown away by the commitments make to their parents and extended families. You are unbelievable - but please find ways to take care of yourselves!!!
When I share info about our situation I find that my concerns are SO much less work than what so many of you are doing ... that said I still would welcome all your life experience so please respond.
My MIL (mother in law) is turning 78 next week. It's been about 2 1/2 years since her husband died of cancer. The last 2 1/2 yrs have been very hard as we have tried to be there for her - often to our own peril.
In the last month, we've explored assisted living with her and tried to be sensitive to her thoughts and wishes. She was clear that she didn't want to move in the next few months as she wanted to enjoy the spring/summer in her condo and enjoy her balcony. We toured a couple of AL residences and she "made a decision" the day she toured (for the second time, first time around a year ago) that she would submit an application and put down her deposit. She completed the application but didn't have a cheque so indicated that she would drop off a deposit later. There were suites currently available but the application would have been to move later (and be put on a waiting list).
I spoke with her tonight and she said that she had changed her mind, was not ready and had talked to her sister in law (also living independently but is active in her life - volunteering, etc). I was completely overcome by her decision but went along with what she is saying because although I don't agree (and neither does my husband, her son) she is not likely to consider our thoughts. I've received calls from her neighbours expressing their concern about her wellbeing. She lives like a hermit - only getting out to do banking and see the doctor. Her only social outings are with us.
She has not found a way to start living her life again - she is only existing. She is having difficulty with memory - forgetting things (don't know if she is managing her medications or not), believe that she is not able to keep up with bill paying and has had a few falls. She usually sends birthday cards and cheques to her adult children and to her grandchildren but is behind in this by several months. She is overwhelmed by these things but cannot give them up - or just write a cheque and 10-20 words of greeting in a card (she wants to write a letter with each card - but finds this too hard to do). I recently typed a few letters on the computer for her to enclose so she didn't have to write everything over and over again by hand.
Her nutrition sources include: Boost, baby food jars, toast and occasionally more substantial food. We invite her over for meals or out to dinner every couple of weeks. We cannot manage more than a meal together every week.
She has no real friends - she has family and a few acquaintances. So her social interactions are 95% with us.
Her sleep schedule is quite disturbed and she frequently sleeps most of the day. She is up at night quite a bit. She has been on an anti-depressant for the past year or so and plans to come off soon.
We cannot have her live with us. We both work full time and I have an emotionally demanding and time intense job as a social worker. I have little left to give ... and I don't want her to rely on us ... I want her to take whatever responsibility she can for her own happiness and build a support network that includes more than my husband and I.
We know that she is not managing on many levels but cannot take on more responsibility for her. We are looking for advice on what we can do to help her build that support network.
I am thinking of scheduling a time for a long term care assessment (focussing on services that she can access while living in her condo rather than on trying to have her placed somewhere). Please help us find our way to help in a way that preserves her dignity and our sanity.