The Bakersfield Californian
ADVICE WITH ATTITUDE & A GROUNDED
Dear Carolyn: My mother is 78 and requires 24/7 care. I am working full time. My son and daughter-in-law live about two hours away with their two kids. My son is a doctor, and my daughter-in-law quit working when she was pregnant with their oldest.
Since she quit, I’ve been asking every few months if she can come by once or twice a week to watch my mother. They always say no. When I was there last month, I sat them down and asked why my daughter-in-law is so unwilling to help with my mother when she isn’t working. I feel I am owed an explanation.
They did not give me one but offered a substantial check for a home health aide.
My mother was adamant that we do not hire strangers or put her in a home, my son knows this, so I don’t understand the money. I also know his education was expensive, their house is brand new and she doesn’t work. Where is this money coming from? I don’t feel like this is all adding up.
What do I do now? — Disappointed
Dear Disappointed: Stop thinking your daughter-in-law’s time — anyone’s time — is yours to schedule for her! Or their money is yours to parse!
Stop pressuring her and them.
You are not “owed an explanation.” Plus, she has already chosen to dedicate herself to caregiving. She has a full-time job rearing children.
Not that it would change the answer if she didn’t, because it’s still her time, their money and none of your business. You can make your mom’s problems your problems, if you want, but you can’t make them anyone else’s. You see it as a matter of values, I take it, that family steps up? If so: Your values aren’t transferrable to others, nor do you get to decide how others apply them.
All of which is to say, the baseline problem here is your mother’s obstinacy. That’s it. (Your entitlement problem came later.) She is the one who both needs the care and refuses the care available. That is on her. Your options:
Press the issue with your mom that caregivers who are “strangers” won’t be strangers anymore once she gets to know them.
Let her know it’s this or nothing. Take time off, if possible, to stay with her as you bring in the professional caregivers your son and daughter-in-law paid for.
Consult with a geriatric care specialist to advise you through this difficult but exceedingly common transition.
Repeat till it sticks: Your daughter-in-law is not the answer. Then start on Plans B, C and D.
“I am stunned that you think driving four hours round trip 1-2 times a week is a reasonable thing to ask. I was a stay-at-home mom, and some people thought I wasn’t doing anything all day. It was very frustrating. Please apologize to save your relationship with them. I imagine it has been a burden for them to process your frequent requests.”
“Most people would say no to that commute if they were getting paid, let alone taking care of someone else’s grandma. For free.”
“You know who’s really good at helping people get comfortable receiving care from strangers? Home health professionals. They know how to work with people to build a trusting relationship. Be honest about your mother’s concerns so they can send the person best prepared to work with her. You presented an issue, and this couple provided a perfectly reasonable solution.”