Mother’s Day is a time to honor and celebrate the unique and often cherished bond you have with your mother. Mother/daughter relationships are as varied as the hues of blooming flowers and may be as volatile as spring storms. Regardless of your history, the reality that your mother is entering her “winter” years can blindside you when she suffers a stroke, has a heart attack, or is diagnosed with a terminal illness. That’s when health care and living arrangement decisions must be made immediately.
In another scenario, you and family members may notice that Mom occasionally needs help with simple everyday living activities. She calls you more often. She’s not as social as she once was. Her refrigerator shelves are sparse. She exhibits signs of Alzheimer’s, dementia or memory loss. These health-related indicators can come on quickly or may present themselves over time. Again, decisions need to be made for her well-being.
Consider another situation. Your mother, who has not lived on her own for years, suddenly becomes widowed or divorced. Despite the independence women have sought and gained through the years, a mother now living alone is often a very real concern to her children.
The stark reality in each situation is that the self-reliant mother you knew yesterday may need various levels of help from you and your family today. Here’s 6 tips on how to care for your aging mother:
How do you help her and still honor her independence?
What can you do to assist her so she can live her life with pride and dignity? How can you get other family members involved so all the responsibility doesn’t fall on your shoulders alone?
While every family’s situation is different and has its own dynamics, there are a few things you and your siblings (and even grown grandchildren) can do to ease your worries and make your matriarch’s life more comfortable.
If you’re observant, there may be little hints that Mom needs help. Is her ability to keep house declining? Is she losing interest in outings with her friends? Is she still able to get out of the house to go to church or shopping? Is she having balance problems or difficulty walking? Is she gaining or losing weight? Is she irritable and quick tempered, or depressed? Does she need your help making decisions? Is she contacting neighbors or family more frequently? Does she seem frustrated when things don’t go her way? Is she expressing concerns or fears about living alone? These may be clues that she is struggling with some of her daily living processes and could use some assistance.
If you don’t live near your mother you may want to increase your visits in order to check on her. Or, enlist the help of relatives or her friends who live nearby — they can be your eyes and ears.
Communication is the key — but at the right time and in the right place. Talk to Mom when you have the time to listen. You need a plan and patience to talk to her about her welfare, finances, and health — and the sooner, the better.
Don’t be confrontational or act as her “parent.” Reassure her that you care about her comfort and needs and that you are simply there to help. Remember that many older women are reluctant to ask for help and too proud to accept it.
Try to Make Things Easier
Things that seem simple to you may be difficult for your mother. Instead of criticizing her for not remembering an appointment, simply give her a reminder call next time. If you or the family can afford it, hire a housecleaning service for her or have daily or occasional meals delivered. Take her out for lunch or dinner when possible. Do things with her that she enjoys.
If your mother is technologically savvy (and many are), there may be helpful smartphone apps she can use for shopping, errands, appointments, medicine reminders, map programs, and so forth.
Install handrails and grab bars for her safety. Remove throw rugs that can be tripping hazards. Consider purchasing an alert system for immediate help.
Don’t push your mother too hard to change her living situation if it’s not necessary. If she is not endangering herself or others, her current living arrangement may be the best solution for a while.
Do the Research
There may be local service agencies or volunteer groups that can help your mom stay in her home longer. Government assistance may also be available for those who meet certain guidelines. Enlist the help of siblings and web-surfing teens to find aid and programs available in your area as well as assistive products and services.
As your aging parent enters into her twilight years, remember to practice empathy and use the words, “I understand,” and “I am here for you.” While aging is an individual journey, it is one that is made easier with love, patience, and caring.
Don’t be confrontational or act as her “parent.” Reassure her that you care about her comfort and needs and that you are simply there to help.