BY: Beverly Bernstein Joie, MS, CMC
Going Home Again – Sue’s Story
Sue was excited. Leaving her family and kids behind, she was on route to her home in PA to attend her 40th class reunion from high school. The plans were simple. She would stay with her widowed, 85 year old mother in the old family home.
She would remain through the weekend and return to her family in CA. This was her time; time to reflect and share with old friends whom she hadn’t seen in years.
As she approached her “old” street, there were so many memories. Sue hadn’t seen her mother since Christmas. They spoke several times each week. Mom always sounded like “Mom.” She reported that she was just fine and she was managing well.
Sue would have loved it if her mom would consider a video cam, so she could actually see her, Gary and the kids.
As she turned into the driveway, she saw mom’s good old blue Buick. On closer inspection, there were some unsightly dents on the driver’s side fender. Sue wondered what was about to approach her at the door.
After about six rings of the doorbell, Sue anxiously called her mother’s telephone number with her cellphone. Her mom answered the phone after three rings. When asked about the lack of response to the doorbell, mom stated that she must have been preoccupied.
Sue took in the sights, smells and sounds of her childhood home. The old furniture remained the same, but there was an ominous sight before her eyes. Instead of the usual neatness, there were piles of magazines and papers.
The house had an odd smell.
There was disinfectant covering up something that she feared to think about. Looking for a cold drink in the fridge, she was shocked to discover its emptiness. There were TV dinners in the freezer, but the usual containers of freshly prepared meals were missing.
And then there was the “junk mail” consisting of many charitable and political organizations. Sue was amazed at the quantity. Who was her mom sending money to?
Sue’s experience is not unique.
Thousands of out of town baby boomers descend upon their parent’s homes, only to find changes that are hard to comprehend. What does Sue need to do now that she sees these changes? Once her brain takes a moment to assimilate the new circumstance, what should she do now?
What to do? Be A Detective
1. Knock on the neighbors doors. Longstanding neighbors often can convey first hand information about the changes that they have witnessed over time.
2. Call friends and any family nearby for more information.
3. Speak to clergy if your parent is a regular churchgoer.
4. Call her primary physician for data and a consultation.
5. Review medications and determine if they are being taken properly.
6. Get appropriate Elder Law documents in place such as your durable power of attorney of your aging parent.
Obtain Professional Help
Sue needs to be able to return to her family. She also needs to establish a plan of care for her mother so that she has some peace of mind. Living far away and caring for a loved one alone is not possible. What is this woman to do?
The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers consists of certified care managers who are experts in the issues of aging. Social workers, counselors, nurses and other related professionals are available 24/7 – and they know what to do. They can be your eyes and ears and guide you through the process ahead with skill, compassion and insight.