Mum refuses help - what can we do?
This week’s storyteller has chosen to be anonymous.
Our storyteller talks about the dilemma of a mother who lives in a home that’s no longer suitable for her needs, but refuses to move out, move nearer or get help.
When my parents moved from London to their cottage in a remote country village they thought the spot was idyllic. They had brought up four children during the end of rationing and had always looked forward to retiring to the country.
As time went on dad developed Parkinson’s and moved to a care home where he eventually passed away. Mum was left alone in a cottage unsuited to her needs - a cottage at the end of a very narrow country road and in the middle of nowhere! My two sister and I live around 70 miles away from mum whilst my brother lives even further – 90 miles. Mum’s friends are few and all live too far away for her to visit them unaided by one of us.
My siblings and I take it in turns to visit mum from time to time and she calls us all to let us know she’s doing well managing the house and her arthritis. Mum has severely arthritic hips which limit her mobility. She’s in constant pain dulled by a cocktail of medication that she takes daily.
Earlier this year I got a worrying call from mum. She felt strange and seemed to be seeing things and her pain was worse than ever. Many thoughts sprung to mind – perhaps she’s developed a neurological disorder, dementia or worse. I drove the hour and a half to mum’s to find out her GP’s thoughts. When I got there it was clear she wasn’t coping by herself. The house was still immaculate but mum’s appearance was a tell-tale sign that she was pained and confused. Her GP recommended we try different pain meds and implied mum’s pill-taking needed to be overseen. It seems mum had been taking too many pills which caused her to have hallucinations.
We packed up some of her things and I dropped her at my sister’s house in London so that she could be looked after and be closer to the arthritis specialist she’d been referred to. After numerous appointments and a new pill regime (strictly enforced) mum actually got worse and ended up in hospital. The stress of not feeling right, her pain and her many appointments had proved a bit too much – she had a small infection and more than anything needed bed rest.
Mum ended up staying between my house and my sister’s for about four months after a series of health issues meant she couldn’t go home by herself. It took a long time for her to bounce back from her hospital stay. There’s something about being an in-patient that makes even the sturdiest of mums seem frail and vulnerable.
When mum was fully recovered and in control of her pill-taking she was anxious to move back to her remote cottage. We had all hoped mum would be sensible about her vulnerability in such an isolated place and consider moving closer to myself or my sister in a self-contained flat. Essentially we wanted her to look into assisted residential living where a warden would check in on residents to make sure they’re ok.
Mum didn’t like any of our suggestions. She promptly reminded us that she wasn’t an old fuddy-duddy and that she simply wanted to go home. And home she went.
Round two of our suggestions to make her home more “arthritis-friendly” were met with equal dismay and disregarded. We offered to get a few gadgets to ease daily life which didn’t go down well either. So with no help alerts, save for her phone, and no gadgets or aids, apart from her crutches, mum went home to her “idyllic” country cottage.
Mum’s home isn’t suited to her needs. Her stair case is small, narrow and by no means straight, she relies on gas bottles for her cooking and hot water which need changing, and she’s no longer able to pack and carry her own shopping.
So this is where we are today, and we don’t have any answers.
I know we don’t want to mollycoddle parents when they get older or make them think we believe them incapable of looking after themselves but I can’t help but worry about mum being all alone. Mum’s GP said she was delusional when she examined her and without anyone to check her pill regime regularly who’s to say I won’t get another phone call from mum saying she feels funny again.
We can’t force help on mum when she doesn’t want it. We don’t want her to feel that we don’t trust her, but how do we ensure this situation doesn’t happen again without outside help or insisting mum gets a personal alarm?
When a parent is still clinging onto their independence no one wants to rip the last shred away from them - this could just cause further decline. So we’ll just take it one day at a time with mum and see how it goes.
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