Vacation Plans–Caregiving Again

I was concerned that this would happen. My spouse’s mother is in sad shape both physically and mentally. She lives in a small decrepit, run-down suburb in Western Pennsylvania, all alone in the only house she has known for more than 65 years. She has no friends or family close by. She is poorly educated, fearful, neurotic, borderline malnourished, and her health is getting worse. She has 87 years.

My sister-in-law spent 3 weeks with her in June and early July, but as soon as she left, my mother-in-law got worse. My spouse has been…

…spending hours on the phone with his mother trying to calm her down. She wails, “why is God doing this to me?” and “I won’t see a doctor because he will put me in the hospital and forget about me!,” among other things. She is becoming more mentally unstable and we are growing more and more concerned.

My sister-in-law arranged in-home visits by a health care provider, but there is only so much that a visiting nurse can do.

This weekend, I am with my spouse at his mother’s home in Western PA. We will do what we must, but in her mental state, that won’t be easy.

Our options are limited. The MIL refuses to move anywhere, such as to a facility with people who can care for her. We cannot have her live with us — mostly because our house is multi-level and is not suited for someone in such frail physical condition. Plus, my spouse’s mother could potentially cause my spouse’s illness to reoccur. We’ve learned that stress can trigger a relapse.

We will try to arrange additional in-home care and make her accept it. The MIL is somewhat paranoid and does not trust anyone. She thinks everyone is out to get her.

Arranging for anyone to come to her home to provide care will be very difficult. But at this juncture, we think it is the best option for her situation, as long as the money holds out. In-home care is expensive. I know that very well from arranging 24/7 in-home care for my aunt who I cared for during her last years of life.

We knew the time would come when we would have to intervene on the mother-in-law’s living situation and healthcare more directly. My spouse had hoped that the situation would be stable for a few more years, but we think the time is shorter for how long his mother can live on her own.

We also broke down and got a smartphone for my spouse to have in case he must stay at his mother’s house for a while. She does not have internet and very limited landline phone service, so an internet-enabled device will be necessary for my spouse to find out information that he will need to know for thousands of things he will need for caregiving, medical treatment, and much more.

Generally, I have eschewed having a smartphone myself because of the cost and how difficult they are for me to use and see tiny screens. Since I have broadband internet at home and at work, I get what I need via a regular computer at the two places where I spend the most time. I also am more facile with a traditional keyboard than the very difficult method to type on tiny smartphone (or even tablet) screens. I have not found the benefit of having an internet-enabled mobile device to be worth the expense. But now my spouse will because it will be the only option to access the internet at his mother’s house, and internet access is so important these days when conducting all sorts of business, making arrangements, finding stuff and people, and so forth.

Caring for aging parents, especially long-distance, is hard. But we do what we must because

Life is short: show those you love how you love them.