Dear Carol: I was widowed young and had no children, so when my mother had her first stroke in her 80s, I moved her in with me. I recently remarried and my new husband’s fine with Mom living with us since we have a large home, but problems are coming up and I feel torn.
My husband wants us to travel some, and I want this, too. He’s good to Mom, but soon his resentment about us being tied down is bound to show in how he relates to her. Mom doesn’t want to go to a care facility because she says that they cost too much and she wants to leave her money to my brothers and me. I tell her that doesn’t matter, but she resists and says that the money is her legacy. I feel like I’m choosing between two people I love. Help! — PI.
Dear PI: Congratulations on your marriage! It sounds like your husband is a wonderful man who loves you and is willing to give a lot in order to make you happy.
You and your mom have had some good years together with only the two of you to consider. The arrangement seems to have worked well, which is great, but now your life has changed. Your mom may not have the emotional or cognitive ability to see that future money doesn’t mean a thing if your new marriage is damaged by the restrictions that her care places on you, but that shouldn’t prevent you from making changes.
Since having your mom in your home doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue as not being able to travel, why not look into hiring an in-home care agency? It’s likely that you’d have needed some help with her eventually, so you can tell her that this would have happened anyway. When you talk with your mom, make it clear that while your love for her isn’t diminished, you have to think of her future as well as your new marriage and your own future.
If some type of at least temporary in-home care arrangement doesn’t work, then you’ll need to look into assisted living for respite care. The upside of this is that you could find that your mom likes it once settled, so that could be a step toward a different arrangement.
Keep repeating to her that her future money isn’t the issue — her current care is. Try to get her on your side, but regardless work on something that will make this a plus for all of you.
I understand how torn you must feel, but you’ve taken this step toward a future for yourself and you need to make changes to help your marriage work so you don’t sabotage that relationship. Your mom deserves the best that you can provide without undermining your own future to such a degree that everyone will feel resentful.
I’d love it if you’d send a note when you take your first trip!
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.