By Rita Torres, OSSMC Operations Manager
This article resonates for me on a very personal level having experienced the issues discussed firsthand.
In reflecting back to the time when my aging mother had to give up the home she had lived in for over 35 years, it was a difficult process for her and her children to come to the realization that it was time.
No one wanted to give up the family home. We love the idea of it, the memories we had made there, and I think on some level, as long as she lived there, that allowed us to pretend nothing had changed. We weren’t older. She wasn’t older. Dad, while not in view, was still there to take care of things.
The truth was Mom was failing and not just physically. Her whole life had revolved around Dad so when he died, she did too, for a while. When we came to visit (we all took turns so she wasn’t alone a lot). We could see the impression on the couch where she sat watching TV for who knows how many hours each day (and night?). She gained an excruciating amount of weight for her tiny body frame and she didn’t want to go anywhere, even our homes. The house and yard became unkempt during our absences. The only time she seemed to come to life was when she was surrounded by her great grandchildren who were babies at the time. It was as though she was transported back in time to her own young motherhood and she was happy.
The following years were one hospitalization/surgery after another for a variety of self-caused health issues due to the excessive weight gain and lack of activity. Until we all had to accept that Mom could no longer remain on her own.
Although I know she missed her own home, her life was better. She was no longer isolated and alone. She was surrounded daily by those who loved and cared for her. She had help with personal grooming, with food/meals/nutrition, medication management, and doctor visits. She began to lose weight, become more active, and enjoy social activities. And she was mentally alert and in complete control of her financial business until she passed away.
While I realize everyone may not be able to care for the elder parent the way we could, it is crucial to recognize the need to protect them from the isolation and loneliness of living alone in some way.