My mother’s resolve to live in her home forever is impenetrable. At the same time, my resolve to keep her out of harm’s way while improving her quality of life slowly erodes, as I fight the good fight with my conscience about how to respect her wishes and keep her safe.
I picture the devil on one of my shoulders and an angel on the other, each whispering into an ear, trying to steer me towards doing the wrong thing or the right thing, respectively. I just don’t know which is which.
From a purely logical standpoint, it’s a no-brainer. It is ludicrous and unconscionable – bordering on criminal – to leave a physically-compromised 88 year-old-woman in the once happy, healthy home that has become a hazard-ridden hollow of confinement.
Dangers abound for my fragile, sight-impaired mother who is dependent on a walker and part-time caregivers to meet her basic needs. Hot tea from the microwave, a displaced throw rug, inability to see the numbers on the phone, virtually anything that requires sight or reasonable reflexes could compromise her safety. And yet my sisters and I continue to succumb to her ultimatum that she live in her home, at all costs.
Here’s the thing about the cost, though. She will not be the only one to pay the price. She isn’t now. We uncomfortably acquiesce at the personal cost of anxiety and guilt – especially the two of us who live nearby – as we worry about her well-being , chastise ourselves for our inability to persuade her to move and feel sick – down to the pits of our stomachs sick – each time we walk out the door and leave her there alone, unsafe and vulnerable.
When that inevitable event occurs, we will knock ourselves around and forever play the “if I had only realized, if I had only come earlier or stayed longer, if I had just moved that box…” whatever game. Because by allowing her to stay in her home, we virtually accept responsibility for any unfortunate or fatal, even, thing that happens. And that’s a legacy our mother is perfectly willing to leave us.
So the tug of war continues as this diminutive octogenarian doesn’t give an inch and her four irresolute daughters lose ground. I really question which is worse, feeling guilty about her absolute vulnerability at home or feeling guilty about relocating her to a safe place against her will. And, personally, if I’m going to feel guilty either way, why not just move her and allow her an opportunity to thrive and us the opportunity to feel like responsible adults.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, or so they say. Our intentions are good and admirable, I think, as we plan to assure mom’s well- being by moving her to a safe place. But they will be empty and worthless and forever haunt us, if that bad thing happens while we drag our feet.
Our lives would be much easier if we just didn’t care. Too bad that’s not an option.