I've written before about my elderly mom who lives about 40 minutes north of me. She is mentally very sharp, but pretty limited with her mobility. She has chosen to stay in her handicapped accessible apartment in a small rural town that she proudly calls home. All well and good, but it has been a balancing act to make sure her needs are met, and to make sure she is safe.
She gave up driving quite some time ago, so she is totally dependent on the help of others for groceries, doctor visits, banking etc. Once a week I faithfully spend the day with her and help her with all of these tasks, including lunch out. She so enjoys it. The socialization is as important as the errands that we take care of. When I leave for FL, my brother arranges to have every Thursday off from work so that he is able to make the 90 minute drive to help her with all of these things.
Thursdays are never easy for Jim, as he doesn't quite know what to do with himself. He also tends to worry the whole time I am away. I've thought about bringing him along, but it really would not work out. He is not patient with waiting, boredom, delays etc. which pretty much describes my day with mom. So far, I have made this work by calling him every hour or so just to check in. He looks forward to the calls and it is reassurance to me that all is well at home.
Today was mom day, but wouldn't you know it, lake effect snow is coming our way. I started out early this morning, and the further north I went, the worse the visibility became. It just didn't seem safe to me, especially since our days our long (5 - 6 hours), and I knew the lake effect would just get worse. I pulled off the highway to call her and tell her that due to the weather we would need to reschedule our trip. Fortunately she has plenty of food, with a well stocked pantry. Her response to me:
"Well, it's up to you. You're the driver. It's not snowing much here. But it's up to you. You decide."
I knew she was terribly disappointed that we couldn't go today. But I also knew I was making the best decision for everyone involved. Including Jim.
Where we live, snow storms are inevitable during the winter. This is one of the reasons we are so happy to escape for 3 months. I remember that the last two years that I worked (prior to my retiring) Jim was especially anxious with my travel back and forth to work. Even just a few snowflakes would have him worrying and calling me frequently at work, telling me I needed to get home. At the time, I didn't fully appreciate what Jim was going through. I know now that his anxiety was getting the best of him as he worried about me traveling back and forth to work.
When we return in the spring, my plan is to ask my older (retired) brother to help more with my mom. I'm sure he'll be happy to help. He lives quite a distance from her. Selfishly, I'd love to see my mom in an assisted living situation. It would make things so much easier for everyone, but I know that she is not ready yet to give up what independence she has left.
There is this saying, maybe you have heard of it before...."Everyone listens to the same radio station. WII-FM. What's In It For Me." I know it sounds cynical, and of course it is not true all of the time. But this perspective has helped me to better understand and to be more sensitive to folks who find themselves in the middle of a WII-FM moment.
Competing needs: Jim's, my mom's, and my brother who has some disabilities. They are all just trying to get by, trying to survive, trying to maintain an equilibrium in their life that can keep them happy, safe and content. And then there are my needs too. I'm looking at 2017 as a time to find a better balance.
My trip early this morning inspired this post. I was having a hard time disappointing my mom, but thankfully was able to put it all into the proper perspective. I'm just doing the best I can given the circumstances.
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