Friday, June 19, 2009

Brother wants to move mom in

As I expected, I got "the call" from my brother the other day. He wants to move my mom into his home. I must be painfully honest here, this brother and I have rarely got on well. While his initial intent is probably good, he has a way of trying to weasel things to his benefit and it usually turns out poorly for all involved. He is trying to be sensitive to our past and began this discussion with a voice mail: "I want to have a nice friendly conversation...." I dreaded returning his call but it turned out well. We agreed to discuss the idea and I told him it's my responsibility to play devil's advocate and look out for what's best for mom.

I had considered this scenario - Mom living with them - but it only lasted a few minutes then I dismissed it as unwise. I know just what my brother is feeling, we don't get along because we are very much alike in some respects. We both want to help family, we both want to make Mom's money last as long as possible; we both feel a sense of obligation to try and make her last years as happy as possible. That said, there are practical considerations that we must consider.

  • First is the amount of help Mom needs. I don't think my brother realizes just how much mom CAN'T do for herself anymore. Holding normal spoons and forks is hard given her weakened hands and failing dexterity. He is not the one who would help Mom; the burden would fall completely on his wife. Mom also has no chronic problems like diabetes or heart disease that would speed her passing. Aside from arthritis, her heart, kidneys, liver, digestion, etc.. are all good. She could live another 5 years or more. That's a long time to help someone who needs so much.
  • Second are personalities involved. My brother will not be the primary care taker; his wife will be the one who helps Mom. My sister in law and mom probably could not get along under the same roof. Mom is very intelligent and logical; she has years of experience doing many things and she wants to be involved. She also doesn't understand that others need to feel that their methods are meaningful too. I just know Mom would end up criticizing sister in law and it would sound insulting. Feelings would be hurt, anger would result and then resentments would build.
  • Third is money. Brother suggested that his wife (sister in law) quit her part time job and Mom pay them the same amount each month to live with them. Seems easy enough but they fail to consider that sister in law can leave work and stress then come home to relax. If Mom lives with them it's a 24-7 commitment. Brother and family are also not the best at budgeting; I know that soon they'd be asking mom to "help" round out their finances with extra money. They would not intend to take advantage but it always seems that something goes unpaid - the electric bill, the phone bill, the water - it's inevitable that they'd look to Mom for help and that's not acceptable. She's avoided helping too much thus far but living there would mean greater pressure and resentments on both sides. She doesn't help, they resent her and her prescence. If she does shell out more cash; she resents them and feels used.
  • Fourth is respite care for Mom. Brother has diabetes; sister in law has problems with knees and feet. They also babysit their 2 year old grand daughter. I live in another state so could not easily get there for emergencies and stay without advance planning. There is no one to stay with mom if they need a break for more than a few hours. They deserve some vacation time. Who would do this? How long could they go without a break? What if one of them has a medical emergency ? Their kids will want to be with their parent not staying with grandma.
  • Fifth are the conditions of their home. They live in a small place that is elevated by steep steps. Mom could not get in or out without a lot of help. Neither brother or sister in law can carry Mom; special ramps or something are required. There are no bars in their bathroom or shower. Door ways and halls are not wide enough for a wheelchair and remodeling is not practical. I feel the home is cramped for two people, a third with special needs would be so cramped as to cause great stress and inconvenience.
We have not had this conversation yet but these are the topics I will bring up. In the end, as Mom's Power of Attorney, I will probably say no but I will have a civil discussion. I know it's more about preserving the relationship with my brother and sister in law (for his kids more than anything else...). My brother is generous to think about moving Mom into his home but he and his wife deserve to think of themselves. I think the amount of work, emotion and patience required would cause too much stress for them. It's best that they conserve their energy for kids, grandkids, themselves and grandparents. They can visit Mom and take her out with the family instead of provide 24-7 care for her.