When all options stink

Hi Brooke,

I’ve been quietly doing my homework and listening to replays. I’d like to say that I’ve been “all in,” but that isn’t the truth. I had my life all calendared and scheduled for the month of August and my 88-year-old mother called. Mom’s mind is good generally, but she needs pain medication that makes her foggy, irritable and unstable. Her health is very poor. she has breast cancer that has metastasized to her bones and a host of other problems that limit her mobility. My 87-year-old aunt (Mom’s sister) lives in the same building. My aunt is nearly blind and suffers from dementia. Mom has made it her mission to take care of Fran. Fran needs to be in an assisted living situation or with able-bodied family. Her son wants her to stay with them. I would like Mom to stay with us, but the two believe that they are able to take care of each other and neither will leave.

the cancer in mom’s lower spine is very painful. the oncologist has recommended 10 radiation treatment (1 per day for 10 business days). This is only palliative. Her condition is terminal. She is not thinking clearly because of the pain medication that she is on. I am genuinely afraid for her safety while she is living alone.

Her clinic has a branch near my house. I prepared a room for her to stay here for 2 weeks. It’s near enough that I can rearrange my schedule to take her personally most days or to have my adult children take her if I can’t. I work from home a lot, so she would not need to be alone. I thought I had it all figured out.

Other family told Mom that they would provide transportation or coordinate it, so now Mom refuses to come. She signed a treatment plan for the center in her town. The two clinics have different equipment, so her care can no longer be transferred to my town. Treatment is scheduled to begin tomorrow. Suddenly, all of the people who told her “no problem, we’ll take you” have backed out. My family is now looking to me to solve the problem. I told my cousin, “you don’t have to take over coordinating her transportation, but I’m not doing it.”

I believe that I’m using “boundary” appropriately here. I told her that remaining in her home for this treatment would mean that she has to figure out the transportation. I told my family that as well and they told her “don’t worry about it.”

C – Mom’s health makes it unsafe for her to live alone
T – I need to keep her safe so in order to be a good daughter
F – overwhelm because there is no way to keep her safe when she lives 70 miles away
A – run myself ragged driving 1 1/2 hours each way ever time Mom needs something
R- feel exhausted, neglect my job (solo practice attorney), and still not keep her safe

C – Mom’s health makes it unsafe for her to live alone
T – She is still a legally-competent adult and I need to respect her autonomy, but I don’t have to enable her to be unsafe
F – resigned to let her do what she wants to do
A – Support her decision to stay in her home, but continue to tell her that she will have to deal with the complexities that come with that decision
R – She feels in charge of her life and I get to live my life, helping when I am able but not taking on the responsibility for a decision that I don’t agree with.

Boundary: If you (mom) want to be independent, I won’t be able to coordinate your transportation.

The problem with this is that it feels like coercion. I want to respect her autonomy. I don’t want her to feel like a prisoner in my home if she comes. I want her to want to come. I feel like nearly everyone in my family is talking behind my back for being the bad daughter who won’t make sure her mother has transportation for radiation.

My other aunt (I have a bunch of them) told me, “decisions have consequences.” She was referring to my mom’s refusal to leave Fran for 2 weeks while she has treatment. I know she is right. This is part of that 50% that stinks, isn’t it?