Chat @ Care-giving: Listen, Listen Again and Then Listen Some More

My parents only agreed recently that they were ready to consider an independent living facility, but the conversation’s been going on for a while. It began over twenty years ago.

My grandmother was in her nineties. For several years, three of her daughters had taken turns caring for Grandmother in their own homes, but it was time for round-the-clock-care.  Back then they didn’t call it assisted living, they called it a nursing home.  Grandmother didn’t have a pleasant go of it and my mom grieved mightily over the necessity of putting her through the ordeal.  It was the right thing to do, but that didn’t make it the easy thing to do.  At the time, she swore she’d be cooperative and do what I said “when the time came.”

Over the years the conversation gained steam.  Friends and family moved into a variety of retirement living arrangements.  Others didn’t, but should have.  About seven years ago my aunt in Temple moved into a cottage on a retirement property.  Mom observed this with both envy and sympathy.  During this period Mother developed a mantra,  “I think I’ll go first and that will make it easier for you to put your dad somewhere.  He’s not a s picky about things as I am.”  About five years ago, I started trying to get her to at least think about what would be the next step for she and dad, but she didn’t want to discuss it.  If I did try to coerce her into discussing it, I’d get the other mantra.  The one about how much it cost and how little money they have.  Both of those issues are relative of course, but I listened patiently and carefully.

Then Mom’s doctor brought up the issue.  He understood the burden she was carrying, trying to do what Dad needed and caring for herself.  That was about a year ago, but Mom didn’t take him seriously, she just stuck to her two mantras.  Finally, she admitted that it was all getting to be too much for her, but still maintains that they might make the move sometime next year.  That was a green light for me to get busy.

After some significant research, I prepared a spreadsheet comparing the three properties I thought would best suit their needs and fit into their financial parameters.  I was spending my usual Thursday with her when I informed her the spreadsheet was ready and I wanted to go over it with her.  In the morning she said we’d go over it later in the day.  When later in the day came, she thought it might be too late and we should put it off until another day.  I wasn’t going to be put off that easily.

We’d already had one show down about this and neither of us wanted a repeat, but she wasn’t happy about having to hear what I had to say.  She was quiet while I went over the spreadsheets, but then she pulled out the old money mantra.  My knee jerk reaction would have been to stand up and scream.  I’ve memorized their investments, their income and their expenses.  I can list all the places she has CD’s.  I know where her files are.  I’m on all her bank accounts.  I know.  I did my research with all this in mind.  Instead of raving and ranting though, I listened to what she had to say, again.  We pulled out the file and I wrote down all the numbers, again.  We talked about her investment options, again.

Then I told her again,  “Mom I know you’re concerned about how expensive making this move is going to be, but it’s not an additional cost.  The cost of independent living will end up being about what you are spending now, maybe a little more, but you can afford it.  And if for some reason you run out of money, Bill and I are not going to make you live on the street.  We’ve got it covered.  You’ve done a miraculous job to have saved all this out of what you and Dad made while you were working, but this is what you’ve been saving it for.”  That was not the end of the conversation, but it was near the end of the conversation.

Yes, it’s frustrating, but I can only imagine how frustrating I must have been at say, sixteen years old.  I know I didn’t hang on her every word and do exactly what she said to do.  And I’m also sure I’ve worn her out complaining about the rough spots of my life and congratulating myself on my successes.  She’s listened and listened and then listened some more.  Now, it’s my turn.  Are you listening to your seniors?

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