Should I stay, or should I go?

“You’ll be making me out a liar in a few minutes, mum, but we’ve been talking recently about maybe it’s time to move into a home, haven’t we?”

“Have we? I’m quite happy where I am.”

My brother looked at me and shrugged. “This is the problem.”

Over the next few minutes it transpired that mum had in fact herself brought up the business of perhaps moving out of her home. In her more lucid moments she knows that things cannot stay as they are for ever. There have been several recent incidents that seem to reinforce the wisdom of her thoughts on the matter. She’s lost a couple of keys lately, but unfortunately after she’d locked herself in for the night. Had there been a fire, the consequences would not bear thinking about. She is also not eating as regularly, or perhaps as well, as she should. In her own mind, it seems, it’s company that she most craves. She talked about the ease with which her friends could still visit her if she went “next door” to the care home that she already knows well. She would have more people to talk to, she mused.

“Oh, I know we have talked about it”, she went on, contradicting her denial of a mere two minutes before. “But I’m quite happy where I am. Although, if you said it was for the best, then I’d obviously go next door. I know you would never give me bad advice.”

As my brother said, this does not really make it any better. In fact, it makes it a great deal worse. Mum flits seamlessly between denial and compliance, as likely to tell us off for talking about her rather than to her as she is to wax eloquent about her wonderful sons that always know, and do, what’s best. As we edge closer to the fateful decision, the last thing we want to hear is that she’ll do whatever we want. Largely because we don’t want. We don’t want her to lose her independence. We don’t want her to burn to death because she’s lost the key. We don’t want her to neglect to eat. We don’t want her to be lonely. And perhaps most of all, if we’re honest, we don’t want it to be our fault. It’s a responsibility we’d rather not have to bear.

But that isn’t the point, and we can’t evade this decision. And we know, eventually, that it will be ours, and not hers. It doesn’t have to be yet. It will, however, have to be soon.

Mum doesn’t know if she should stay, or if she should go. Whether she should trade her home and her identity for a bit of company, and, as I might say to my board, better managed risks. Frankly, nor do we. It’s an unenviable choice.


7 thoughts on “Should I stay, or should I go?

  1. We are having similar problems with my father but it’s not just either/or. We were referred to Social Services & they are in the middle of a six-week assessment of my dad’s needs. He is currently having a carer go in every day at teatime to make sure he’s eaten (a big problem just now) and give him his medication. We’ve had to lock this up as twice recently he has taken 2 lots in one day. We’ve bought him a 24 hour clock with day & date so he doesn’t ring me up in the middle of the night to find out if it’s 4 in the morning or the afternoon.
    After the assessment period he will be transferred to a private care company & will have to pay if he has savings over £23,500,
    It is worth speaking to the doctor & the local social services to see what is available.

    • Thanks. Of course, we are already in touch with Social Services, and mum has a medical review this week. She has carers to come in each day, which she pays for in part. But I think the really difficult thing is that even with the support of these kindly – although rushed – paid helpers, and my brother’s attentive support, mum spends most of her time alone. And in her current stage of Alzheimer’s (not, as my other brother frequently reminds me, anywhere near as bad as it could, and will, be if she lives for the many more years she shows every sign of achieving) her understanding of time is so distorted, and her ability to retain new information so limited, that I suspect that when she’s on her own it feels like she’s always in that state.

      This I think is the crux of our dilemma: when will real, or at least spiritual, loneliness become more cruel than loss of dignity and independence? Sooner, I fear, than I had persuaded myself was the case.

  2. Similar wretched decision-making in our family, with an added irony that I am the only one of her offspring lucky enough to be in a situation to be able (and happily willing) to take her in and provide the necessary care, company and stimulation…. But I thoughtlessly emigrated 20-odd years ago and immigration won’t allow an aged parent to join me while other siblings exist in her own country, even though their circumstances mean they can’t provide what she needs. Heart-breaking …..

  3. A beautiful and poignant post. As the only child left (bloody sister went and died on me), I worry about facing these decisions alone. And then I worry about my children facing the same decision, when I am in need.

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