No such thing as an empty nest….

by Karen on February 26, 2014

Most of my customers know my story – I started A Second Me errand service because I was strapped taking care of my special needs son and my aging mother while also working outside the home.  I needed a second me – so I decided to provide the Second Me that so many of us need in similar situations!

Mom with grand-daughter Addie.

Mom with grand-daughter Addie.

My mother lived with us once she wasn’t able to care for herself at home anymore.  During that time, my mother-in-law was nestled away in an independent living facility which, by comparison to at-home care, seemed like “the” answer to caring for an aging parent. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that my vastly different experience with each of our mothers wasn’t a product of their caretaking settings – home vs. facility – it was the amount of care each needed.

My mother died five years ago and in the meantime, my mother-in-law slowly began needing more and more care.  We started with a Geriatric Care Manager who checked in on her and helped with the more complicated tasks. Once she could no longer drive, we hired more help (luckily I found an A Second Me type of resource in Harrisonburg where she lived).  But when that wasn’t sufficient due to her advancing dementia, the plan was to move her to Assisted Living in the same facility.  To be clear, that was HER plan.  But that was then, this is now.

Grandma with Karen and Addie

Grandma with Karen and Addie


Audrey at Easter

My Mother-in-Law in her Easter flowers.

With her dementia ever encroaching on her ability to analyze a situation, my mother-in-law decided Assisted Living is where you send people to die, and she wanted no part of it. So now my image of a retirement facility plan being “the” answer has been forever revised by experience. After much discussion among my husband and his siblings, we now have my mother-in-law at home with us.

Taking responsibility for our aging parents is very much like the responsibility we have for our kids. I’m not saying that our elders should be considered or treated like children, but I’ve found that no matter what care you arrange, you are always on call to make decisions, arrange appointments/schedules/transportation, and BE there (which is the part I don’t want to miss out on for my parents or my kids). My mother-in-law needs us, and we’re happy to help. Her original intention was to self-manage – hence her original plan to move from independent to assisted to nursing care. Like any good plan, we found the need for contingencies.

Mother-in-Law with grand-daughter Addie.

Mother-in-Law with grand-daughter Addie.

We’re managing quite well. For now, we’ve settled into a routine that includes adult day care services at a great facility near our home. My mother-in-law isn’t sure she’s a fan, but she’s at a point where she remembers little of what happens each day. We will need additional help as her needs outgrow our abilities, and we’re prepared to make those decisions. We have resources for home health care and options for local facilities (the “home” my mother-in-law chose when she was better able to understand her situation and now dreads in her diminished state).

We know only one thing for sure – our situation is going to keep changing. We need to be ready for the next steps. Learning from experience, we have many potential plans vs. “the plan” – and the decisions we make are written in pencil.

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