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Do You Really Know What Your Mom Wants?
Frank Blood
/ Categories: Care, Services

Do You Really Know What Your Mom Wants?

How often have you thought, “I’ll bet mom (or dad) would really like this?” So, you buy it for her. But whenever you visit, it’s nowhere to be seen. Or maybe you have a parent like my dad. He wouldn’t hide his feelings about an unwanted gift unless he felt the giver would be too hurt if he said something. He was thoroughly unpretentious and only liked gifts he would use – especially gadgets and tools – and the simpler, the better. One time my wife and I gave him something fancy to make him feel extra special.

Before we left for home, he pulled me aside and asked if it would be alright with us if he returned it for something he really wanted. He told me he understood what we were trying to say with the gift and how grateful he was for the thought, but it just wasn’t part of who he was. Of course, it was fine with us and we learned a valuable lesson about shopping for others.


Small matters can easily be adjusted

We love our parents and we want to help them get the best they (or we) can afford. That’s all well and good if we fully understand what they want.  Assumptions don’t work; we need to question and listen. For example, we hire a home care aide to help mom with simple housework and for companionship. The aide’s background seems to fit exactly what we are looking for. However, mom and the aide don’t hit it off at all.

The aide insists on doing the dishes and folding laundry but those have always been mom’s chores and she doesn’t want anybody taking over her work. It’s mom’s home and she’ll do things her way, no matter how badly. The aide might not speak English clearly enough for mom to understand or if the aide’s voice is slightly louder than normal, mom may think she’s screaming at her. Mom may like to be alone. No problem – just get different aides until mom finds one she likes. But what about decisions with serious consequences.


Important matters deserve a lot of attention

Sooner or later, mom’s physical and cognitive abilities will diminish, and you’ll begin to wonder about her safety, even with a full-time aide. This is where caregiving gets especially difficult. Maybe mom says she doesn’t want to be a burden to her children but is dead-set against moving out of her house. 24/7 caregiving usually costs her more money than if she were to move to an assisted living or memory care facility. You’ve heard mom say many times that she wants to stay in her house until she dies. That’s what she says but is that what she really wants? It’s impossible to tell without much conversation and perhaps getting an independent third party involved. It could be that mom only likes a couple of things about her home or she’s afraid of change like most elderly people.

I’ve heard stories from seniors and from caregivers about things that could have been better if they would have taken a little more time to communicate deeply before moving out of their home. Some of the issues that can come up when looking for a community involve distances the family needs to travel to visit mom, the size of the room (both too big and too small), the view from the room, the feelings the person gets while being alone in the room, and so on. There are also big issues about the personality of the community, the staff, services, and amenities.

Mom’s desires and needs have probably changed over time yet the way you talk to each other may not have. Before making major decisions, like where she should live, it’s important to have many thoughtful conversations with mom, enough input from other family members and a trusted person outside the family who can help you make the right choice for your situation. It’s better to have more advice than not enough. You need to know what your mom wants but you also need to know what you want, so the decision is one that pleases both of you. Who wants to sit in traffic for an hour each way when they visit mom just because she liked a new building?

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