It was always my mother’s intention to remain at home during her elder years. There had been some judicious advance planning: a move from house to condo; the sale of the second car; the purchase of walking shoes – WALKING SHOES???? My mother rarely exercised. And there was also a good dollop of luck: luck that put an affordable condo in Mom’s building onto the market (and this was when I lived in the Ottawa area, with no plans to return to Oakville); and luck that I COULD move to Oakville, as things turned out.
I fell in with the idea the first time Mom mentioned it. Of course Mom should remain at home if she so wished! My enthusiasm was naïve, though, because it didn’t even occur to me that Mom might well require a lot of caregiving. My grandmother had died at home, after all. And she had just needed housekeeping help.
Fast forward three or four years. I’ve actually moved to Oakville and am beginning to find my way about. Mom has surprised me by beginning to show signs of dementia. I began the delicate task of offering help. I take things very slowly, not wanting to erode Mom’s confidence. But it turns out that the slow pace works just fine for both of us. Mom was a fiery, independent spirit, long accustomed to running her household with a steady hand.
I set out quite deliberately to make myself useful. I do a little banking for Mom, and some errands too. I begin the habit of visiting Mom several times a day, popping in for a quick word here and there; settling in for a longer visit at other times. I’m respectful of Mom’s privacy and don’t want to crowd her. But Mom responds well to my frequent visits and that’s when I realize she is lonely.
Slowly but surely, Mom began to turn to me when something needed to be done: a bill paid, a cheque deposited, an email to answer. Of course, we began this process already liking and trusting each other but Mom needed to learn hat she could relax while I took care of business. It took about a year of steady service to Mom before she let me take over the reins.
In essence, I became Mom’s ally and advocate. I was careful to involve Mom in my chores, asking her advice on how to handle each situation. Far from making Mom invisible, my help gave us one more thing in common, and the smooth running of her household soon rested on the back of our teamwork. In time, the pendulum would shift to where I was managing everything, making trust a key component in the caring relationship.