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My father (83) died on August 31, after nearly 30 years of severe, debilitating illness that got worse year after year. By the end neither he nor my mother had much of a life. The vast majority of their time was spent sleeping, eating, or hanging out on the Internet.


I should add that both parents had mental health issues (mostly untreated) throughout my life. I sometimes realize that I'm not grieving the loss of my Dad because in many ways I feel that I lost both of them back when I was a teenager.


Life has not been easy for Mom.


The first week without Dad seemed to go pretty well. Mom seemed to come alive, keeping busy, going through and trying to organize what has become a near hoarding situation. Now she's back to her old routine but without the need to at least minimally take care of Dad's (as a side-effect, some of her own) needs. She mostly sleeps. Mostly eats Taco Bell and Jack-in-the-Box tacos. She's bathed twice (that I'm aware of) both times at my urging. In short, nothing has improved for her, but nothing seems worse.


She lives in a nice home my husband and I own. Within the next several months we'll need for her to move out and on to the next place. The most practical thing would be for her to live with us -- but she is already 100% dependent on me for emotional support, and mostly dependent on us for financial support. I, also, would like to be able to live my own life without the constant, heartbreaking worry about my parents (now parent), though. For myself, as much as my mother, I so very much want her to have a happy ending to her life. She has SO much promise and any time at all on this Earth is a blessing, really. I know I can help distract her unhappiness. But that is different than knowing she is happy.


With the recent escalations in rent all over the country, she can no longer afford to live by herself on Dad's social security payment alone. If I am able to get back to work making even half of my previous salary I'd be happy to pay for an independent or assisted living place for her, if it meant she would actually socialize and create a life for herself. I am honestly uncertain if she can or should live alone without our support (even if she could afford it -- or we paid for it) in her own place.


She tells me she doesn't like to expose herself to new people because she doesn't want anybody to "need" her. She is actually a funny, sweet, loving and very artistic person who is just wasting away.


Any suggestions on how I can help her (she's also INCREDIBLY stubborn) out of her shell and nudge her (successfully) towards living her own life? I'm not working at the moment so money is tight for my husband and I just want to do what's best for Mom.

groovygal: Perhaps she would be well suited for an assisted living facility.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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Your mom is still grieving.
I also think she may be depressed.
Rather than move in with you (and I am sure you will get LOTS of comments on that) Look into Assisted Living or other Senior housing for her.
She may do better with people and activities around her that she can get involved in.
Many sites and information say that a person should make no major changes after a stressful event. The death of a spouse is high on that list.
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Reply to Grandma1954
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Your mother may need more time for grieving. It's not easy to lose a companion of many years. And she's also lost her "job" (of caring for your father). You and your Mom should connect with a local social worker who can help explain what her options are. Much will depend on her finances. She'll probably need your help with the initial legwork of finding her another place to live. With my mother, I did most of the research online and then went to see actual places. I narrowed it down to a place I thought she would like with friendly staff, an attractive and well run facility, and pleasant apartments. My mother's place was a continuing care facility that had independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing all on one campus. The idea of not exposing herself to new people so they won't "need" her is a distraction. If she moves to an assisted living facility, she'll meet other mature people her own age - they won't "need" her, but maybe she'll find people with like interests. The advantage of assisted living is skilled staff, they take care of meals, housekeeping, making sure she takes her medications on schedule, activities, and if needed, will also help with showering and dressing, etc. Depending on her level of need, they may also do her laundry and other things. If you go this route, try to find a place near you so that you can visit often and oversee her care. Let her know that you are there for her and that you'll visit often. You'll probably also have to help her with downsizing to move to such a place, and with the move and setup in her new place. It's best to downsize as much as possible at this point. She shouldn't take lots of books, clothes that she'll never wear, decorative items (just a few). Talk to her doctor about getting some grief counseling for her, to help her transition to a better life alone. Also make sure all of her paperwork is in order. She needs to set up power of attorney for medical and financial matters, a living will with her advance medical directives, and a will, if she has assets. The social worker should be able to help you with resources, such as templates, or maybe referrals to an attorney if needed. My mother made things easier by making me joint owner on her accounts (I was an only child). It might be a good time to set up her accounts online and paperless. She shouldn't take valuables or personal papers with her to a senior facility, and if she decides to have in-home caregivers helping her with housekeeping, meals and showering, she should lock up her valuables and personal papers. All the best to you and your Mom.
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Reply to NancyIS
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This as sad as it is but it is very good question, which many of us as caregivers are quite possibly be struggling with.
I don’t have an answer, only to say it is too soon for your Mom, not even a month, give her time.
Most would reflect, want some privacy, peace.
Sadness is normal, society thinks we should be ready to resume our lives and views mourning as something we should get over with. Staying dignified for days and receiving people with stoicism is expected.
I saw other cultures where women are crying and screaming and express their emotions freely, some are wearing black clothing all their lives. That is extreme as far as our culture is concerned. There should be not guilt and resuming life would be ideal. Some will thru lots of mourning some not, as with traditional view it was a year of mourning, I don’t think anybody will expect that, but, a month is too short to be well
adjusted, unless somebody made plans or has ideas how to proceed with life as single person.
Give her time, encouraged some hygiene, maybe some walking, fresh air, self care, take her to hairdresser for example, good nutrition and few visits from family and friends.
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Reply to Evamar
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Please make her an appointment with a Geriatric Psychiatrist who can walk her through her issues and write prescriptions that may be needed. I believe the doctor can assist in applying for Medicaid and refer mom to assisted living facilities. If not, please call "A Place For Mom" or the Care Advisor on this site.

The larger facilities will offer activities that artistic people like to do.

Needy people can be draining...............let mom know that you feel the same way.
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gladimhere Sep 28, 2022
The care advisor on this site is actually "A Place for Mom". The site is owned by "A Place for Mom."
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When my dad died after suffering for about 15 years--mom grieved quietly and privately and then suddenly came to life! She was no longer caring for her mom, or dad and she had all the time in the world.

We didn't push her. We helped box and manage dad's things and moved her bedroom into his and made her apartment a little more 'her' than like a hospital room.

Slowly she eased out of 'mourning' started going to swim group, BINGO, just having a life. I know she felt guilt at being happy--but she deserved the years she had to 'herself'.

When her own health took a turn--she slowly went downhill, but she did get about 14 really 'fun' years. She didn't travel at all or do any of the things we thought she'd do--she simply shopped and lunched and played. She made a lot of good friends, and outlived all of them.

She died one month ago today--and looking back--I am so glad we never had to have that 'mom, we need to put you in care' decision.

Some people 'come alive' after they've lost a loved one (esp when the care has been long and arduous). Some stay in the rut of feeling trapped that caregiving can cause. I'd encourage mom to look around and see what resonates with HER. ANd give her time, because, well, he life has just done a 180 and that's hard at any age.

Also, she may actually be feeling guilty that she DOESN'T miss dad as much as she thinks she should. That's a whole other discussion!
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Clarkey Sep 28, 2022
What a lovely answer! This was a lovely period in your moms life. You're a wonderful thoughtful person!!!🙏💜🤗🤗🤗
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Was Mom married locally. If so, the Church should have a record. Does she have a passport. A woman has to prove she's married to get one.

Its only been the last so many years that Counties have digitized records. They should have all marriage information in files. Where did Mom put their birth certificates? I would think a marriage certificate would be with them. It boggles me that people are so lax a daisy about their important papers. When I handed my daughters important papers over to them, I made sure they had a file box to put them in. My nephew too.

Are you trying to do this on line? Go to the office. I find one on one is so much better. Your Mom must have proved marriage when she signed up for her SS. If a womans SS is under half of her spouses, she would be increased to half of his. I would think it would be then she proves she is married and that is put in the system. I would take with me, Church proof. If they owned anything together. A POA saying "my wife". Tax records showing they filed jointly. Anything they have signed needing a "spouses" signature. Her listed as beneficiary to his insurance as wife.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Is it feasible to try a 'trial run' type of thing for a week or a month at an AL? Or even at an IL for seniors where there are activities she can participate in? IDK that she'd be agreeable to participating in said activities, however.........that is the $64,000 question. But if she were in such an environment, with others her own age, where meals were served in a dining room, MAYBE she'd see that a new life was possible for her IF she wanted one.

Sometimes, I think, a person 'becomes' introverted and scared of life b/c she's lived that way for so long.......taking care of a sick husband and hiding out in the house waiting for the 'other shoe to drop' for so long. Now it's dropped. You said she's creative and artistic, loving, and wasting away. Maybe she needs to SEE up close and personal a new way of life in order to imagine herself LIVING that lifestyle. You know what I mean?

That's my idea.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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I would suggest not trying to fix her.

If I understand your post, she's been this way for decades, if not all her life. She's also lost her life partner as well as her purpose -- caring for him -- and that's not a small thing. Old habits are hard to break, and caring for your dad while living with his illness has been a decades-long habit.

As others have said, give her some time, as her reality is very new and will take time to adjust to. I also don't recommend working just to pay for her to be in a facility, but if that would bring you some peace of mind and your own finances are OK, then maybe it isn't a completely bad option. Whether she chooses to interact with others is her choice, and that's not what you should try to orchestrate.
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Reply to MJ1929
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Having to deal with finances and establish a new normal after a person’s death is mentally draining especially if she has to work at it. I understand your desire to start planning for the future as that is how I deal with change also.

You have casually mentioned that your Mom is having trouble finding her marriage certificate. Can you help her more in the research and execution of getting your Dad’s estate finalized? For instance, get the extra tax forms, life insurance completed? She should talk, yes, talk, to Social Security as she will get a small one time lump sum to help with funeral costs as well as do what paperwork is needed to get a bigger Social Security check now that your Dad is gone.

Once you are close to getting all of that completed, then it would be time to talk about what she wants and can afford. You will know it’s time when she begins to part with your Dad’s clothes and personal goods.

If you feel a need to go do something else in the meantime, start researching care facilities for your Mom. Each is different and only some will allow reduced income residents. Don’t ask her to come along quite yet as it appears too soon.

Let her take her time. It will be maddening to you, however, he’s only been gone a month.
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Reply to ChoppedLiver
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What you want is clear. The question is is she willing to want that. Is she really capable of it?

I feel a little confused by your post. You want to help her yet are worried about money. I understand that. I just think you should try for the most realistic goals. If she goes to AL she will need to bathe more. That can be with assistance.

Maybe you could figure out from the various options what is most ideal while also being manageable that can benefit both of you while being most affordable. I hope you can all arrive at the best decision.
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Reply to Riverdale
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Dad hasn't even been gone for a month? Slow down, allow mom to adjust. She might be ready for grief support, but it is really too early for that.

What is the rush? Let mom catch her breath.
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groovygal Sep 23, 2022
Please forgive my eagerness to move on. I do know this is entirely different from my mother than for myself. I am just truly very concerned for and want the best for her future. Everybody suffered for a very long time. She deserves a happy future. I am just searching for suggestions about nudging her in the right direction (as somebody who can) towards an independent and fulfilling life I know she's ached for, for a long, long, time.
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Sorry for your loss. Your dad had an illness for 30 years? Lordy, that's a long time to decline and suffer. Poor guy.

Does your mom pay rent at your 2nd home? Are you selling it or need her out to get a paying renter? Either way, totally your choice and a good idea.

Having had my 79 yo mom living with me and hubby for 7 years, I strongly suggest NOT moving her into your home. She's already super dependent upon you and this will only increase exponentially if she is under your roof.

Please do NOT go back to work with the goal being to pay for HER rent elsewhere. Bad idea. You need to take care of yourself and save for your own retirement.

Instead, mom should move into senior housing where it is government assisted, if needed. My MIL spent a few decades in such an apartment building and she paid what they determined she could afford. Which wasn't much considering she only got $900/month from social security and had very little money in the bank.

She could do things like meals on wheels and maybe some caregivers as needed.

I also think she needs a doctor visit. Maybe she has depression following your dad's death.

Good luck.
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groovygal Sep 23, 2022
She and Dad insisted on paying as close to market rent as they could for as long as they could, but as of last June they stopped paying any rent at all. Because we own it outright, and can (for the short term) afford the homeowner's insurance and property taxes and utilities we pay on it, we don't want to ask her for anything. Medical bills for my Dad, before insurance, total in the millions of dollars :-(. Because they could not afford to select a top tier "medicare plus" insurance, her out of pocket monthly bills are very, very high. On the other hand, she no longer has the out of pocket expense of Dad's prescriptions. So she does, if she has no other expenses, have money to at least go out to dinner occasionally. Life in America, alas. She worked so hard for so long, and Dad's SS is still more than twice her monthly payment.

I agree about the doctor's visit. She keeps saying she's going to... get her hearing/dizziness/fatigue/depression, etc. assessed, but she never makes an appointment (or, if she does, she doesn't keep it). If I press her on these things it seems to make her feel defensive and even more depressed. She trusts me, but not enough to let me handle these things at this point.

The big thing right now is that she can't find their marriage certificate, and the county/state they were married in has not digitized them. She's currently stuck trying to figure out what to do in order to prove they were married back in 1963 so that she can get his ($1900/month) payment instead of her's ($800/month).
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