When your head knows it’s the right decision, but your heart is breaking.
One of my promises to myself when I became mom’s caregiver is that I would never promise her anything unless I was 100% sure I could deliver. It is why I never promised her I could always keep her in our family home. My expectation was that at some point she would need to be in a wheelchair and, given that her 64-year-old home is not wheelchair accessible, she would have to move.
Well, the time has come to make other living plans and mom is not in a wheelchair. Mom’s health, financial concerns, her 64-year-old home and my own physical, mental and emotional needs all contributed to our decision to move mom closer to me.
Do I feel guilty, selfish, resentful and grief about moving mom out of our family home? Absolutely.
“Guilt, the gift that keeps on giving.” My friend and colleague recently said this and all I could say was YES! As caregivers, we feel guilty if something happens to our caree on our watch. We feel guilty that we are not practicing the self-care everyone tells us we must. We feel guilty when we neglect our spouse or children, we even feel guilty when we have negative feelings about our situation or our caree.
But the guilt I’m feeling right now is about not being able to rise to the occasion and move in with mom as her full-time caregiver. I wish I could do it, but I know from the last 7 years that it would destroy my health, strain our mother / daughter relationship and cause more problems than it would solve. Still, I feel guilty even though mom has said she never really expected to be able to stay in this house forever and that this is the right decision at this time in her life.
As if guilt wasn’t enough, it also feels like I am being selfish in making the decision to not move back home and care for mom full time. I will keep reminding myself until it sinks in that this decision isn’t selfish. It is, in fact, giving myself permission to have what mom wants for me: a healthy, happy, productive life that is my own. As mom has said, “I’ve had a good life for 90 years, living it as your dad and I wanted to. It is what we want for you.”
You might wonder where resentment comes into play. There is this little voice in my head that says, “Geeze, if they had saved more money, we would have what we need to keep mom at home.” But that is unrealistic and unproductive. No one knows how long they will live or what their future health will be. Frankly, after going through this with mom, I don’t believe that anyone can realistically save for what they will need until the end of their life. Heaven only knows how long my savings will last as I age.
Underlying everything else is grief. The grief I feel because mom’s life is being uprooted is not a surprise. What is a surprise is the grief I feel in selling our family home. My brother and I have always agreed that this house is to financially support mom in all ways. Intellectually, I knew we would have to let it go at some point. But now that we are here, it is hard. Mom and dad moved into this house two months before I was born. Wonderful memories are embedded in its very walls and letting it go is like losing dad all over again. And that I did not expect.
Once again, mom and I are adjusting to a life change as we continue this caregiving journey together. What it takes to get to this decision, move her down here and sell the house is eye opening. I swear this is going to be a book some day. Stay tuned!
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.” This book explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems. Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.
Deb! I was your mom’s PT! I’ve been reading your page and an quite impressed! I,myself an a caregiver for my husband and mother in law who live with me and both have dementia. Care giving is not for the weak of heart! Thanks for all you do!
Debra Hallisey says
How wonderful to hear from you Sue! I hope you are doing well.