Sunday, 4 July 2010

A difficult conversation

I had a day out with my Mum on Friday.

She recently took the decision to give up her car after a long period of contemplation, so we went to a little town called Bridgnorth which she can easily reach by bus.

It was a hot, sticky day. After visiting every one of the charity shops in the town (and there are quite a lot!), we went for lunch in a little bistro on the High Street. I ordered a sandwich and salad, but I could see that she wasn't too happy with the available selection. She reluctantly opted for something on the menu, but then spotted the waitress delivering an enormous ice cream sundae to the gentleman on the next table. "I want one of those", she said with delight. And she had it too!
I guess when you are nearly 80 you are entitled to throw caution and sensible nutritional choices to the winds once in a while.

If you met my Mum, you would find a neatly turned-out lady who is happy to chatter to anyone about anything. She also appears quite self-sufficient and secure in herself.

But appearances can be deceptive. She has had a few health issues lately, and I think has been suffering from mild depression. These have combined to change the previously active, busy person to someone who has lost a lot of confidence in her own abilities and become reluctant to go out on her own. She lives in a village about 15 minutes' drive from my younger sister Liz, and her increasing isolation and on-off ill health has been a source of worry to me and both my sisters.

Liz and her husband are in the happy position of having a holiday cottage on their property which they have been letting out for the past two or three years. It is a lovely little bungalow, roughly the same size as Mum's home. We all felt it would be the perfect solution if Mum could sell her home and move into the cottage - she could then pay rent out of the proceeds of the sale (we all knew there was no way that she would accept not paying rent). Liz is a trained nurse, Mum would get to see her grandchildren every day and she would still have her own home and front door if she wanted her privacy.

On paper it is the perfect solution. But someone had to raise it with Mum - and I drew the short straw. There is no easy way to say to someone that you don't think they are coping very well and should consider giving up a degree of their independence. I wasn't looking forward to it.

In the event, it all went much better than I had dared hope. We were standing outside an estate agent's window (Mum has always enjoyed looking at properties for sale) and I casually asked her if she was considering moving. She admitted that she wasn't terribly happy where she was and would like to move closer to Liz, but found the thought of the entire process too complicated and overwhelming to contemplate - which was probably adding to her depression. I mentioned Liz's offer to her, fully expecting her to dismiss it out of hand, but to my surprise she didn't. We calmly discussed all the pros and cons as far as I could see them. There were a few tears; possibly of relief because she could now see a way out of her situation, possibly at having to admit that she wasn't coping very well. But we carried on talking and, when I finally left, she was quite accepting of the idea.

I can't imagine how it must feel to be taking decisions that will probably take you through to the end of your life. Mum's biggest fear of all is of "being put in a home", and I can fully understand that fear - the thought would fill me with horror as well. There are still a lot of steps involved to get from here to there, but I so hope this will all work out for everyone involved and that Mum will be able to enjoy the rest of her days in a home that she can call her own.


  1. J I'm so pleased that the convo went well. I had a similar one with my Mum ten years ago, to cut a long story short we built on a bedroom/bathroom and lounge room. Mum enjoys some independence but is where I can look after her and we eat as a family. She's almost 84 and I think in better health than when she arrived. Good luck with your situation.

  2. Thanks Rose. I really hope it works out. It is good to learn that it works well for you and your Mum - I suspect that my Mum's health will improve too if there is more going on around her and she is not just sitting in a chair all day.