As I write this, my mother is living in a rehab center after a fall and a hospital stay. This is at least the sixth time we’ve done the rehab thing. She is bored there. She is lonely there. I get that. It’s not a great place to be. But the kids, myself included, cannot visit all day every day. As a matter of fact, we cannot visit every day. We have lives, jobs, and responsibilities. She’s lonely. She’s bored. She earned this.
I am not saying my mother fell on purpose. I am saying that she has not done everything she could to prevent it (nor even close). For years, we’ve tried to get her to exercise – just walk around more, do the stationary bike for a few minutes a day. For that matter, just get up and do circles in the living room. For years, we’ve tried to get her to eat better. It took her almost 55 years to quit smoking. She used to tell me that George Burns lived to be in his nineties and he smoked. UGH!
I’m also suggesting that if my parents had entered a nice assisted living facility earlier, we very likely would not be facing this situation again! I realize I can’t know that – maybe she would have had the same problems. But I do know she would have been forced to walk to the dining hall (exercise!), her meals would have been more balanced (diet!), and smoking would have ceased once and for all. She would have been able to make friends and do activities (socialization!). She would have nurses checking in on her regularly and doing more preventative care.
As to her boredom, she would love surfing the net. She could shop and read gossip and listen to her favorite people. She could watch any show she wanted anytime she wanted, read any book that struck her fancy. But, every time one of us tried to teach her to use modern technology, she’d say “I can’t figure it out” and then she’d give up. My parents don’t even have an ATM card or a cell phone. How they do their banking is beyond me.
What’s my point? Last week, I told my husband that if anything ever happened to him, I’d have no idea how to manage all the media crap in our house. I told him I’d be stuck just reading. Does that sound familiar? (Note to self: have husband teach me everything!)
As I’ve been visiting my mom, I’ve let my exercise drop off and I’ve eaten like crap. And we all know that once we start putting crap in our mouths, it’s harder to stop. Does that sound familiar?
I’ve talked to many people in this so-called “sandwich generation”, and we all have similar complaints. Elderly people want to stay in their homes no matter the burden on the rest of the family, no matter the risk to their health and quality of life. As I stand here now in my healthy middle years, I say ‘I won’t do that to my kids’. I promise them that I’ll peacefully and happily go to assisted living. My parents said the same thing. Until, that is, the time came. So, how can I keep my promise to my kids? How can I NOT become one of ‘those’ parental units?
I do not want my kids having to take care of me. My parents did not want that either. But here we are. And this is NOT where I want to be in thirty years.
Maybe my kids can print this blog and force me to read it when I whine about having to move. My husband is looking into long-term care insurance. It’s pricey but money becomes a huge issue. What else can I do? Exercise. Eat right. Take care of my mental health. Refuse to isolate myself. Have real hobbies and interests. Keep up with technology.
I think I’ll write myself a letter (Dear Old Me). In the letter, I’ll lay out my plans, my promises, my willingness to move and get care. Then when I’m old and refusing to move, my kids can shove that letter in my face. Think that will work?
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....