Mom must move … but where to?

TraceyAsk Tracey, Columns

Dear Tracey,

 I have a terrible situation. My mother is 84 and housebound. A woman comes in three times a week for basic care. I do everything else. (I’m divorced and retired, living on a fixed income.) She gets Social Security and a small pension. We’ve been living like this for the last ten years. The problem? My mother has run through all of her savings. She’s been doing her own money forever and led me to believe she had enough to get by. I feel so stupid that I didn’t check into her finances years ago.

She’ll sell her house. It’s all paid for, so that’s good. But she says the only solution is to move in with me and that’s a big problem for me. We’ve never gotten along very well. She’s controlling, demanding, hard to please and critical. I already feel the strain of taking care of her. We can’t possibly live together. Bless my younger sister.

She knows how things are and wants Mom move in with her. Mom absolutely refused. She said she won’t leave her hometown and then laid on the guilt, asking me how could I make her move far away and leave behind everything she knows?

How do I get her to accept that she has to move in with my sister? I know my mother, she’ll never go for it. Or maybe you think I should be a good daughter and have her move in with me?

— Signed, Desperate Daughter.

Dear Reader,

In spite of how dire all of this may feel to you, let’s begin with the positives. Two things in this situation are hopeful: 1) Your mother has a significant asset she can sell and, 2) she has a place to live. 

Now, for the regrettable negatives, starting with the difficult relationship you two have. I’m sorry about this. Sadly, from your description of your mother, would it be safe for me to assume she’s also a bit stubborn? All of these are difficult to interact with, especially under these circumstances. Yet, you’ve managed to care for her for the last ten years.

Don’t worry about being a good daughter, you already are. I think it’s time you consider what is best for yourself. Clearly, that means having your mother move in with your sister. This is an appropriate goal.

With this perspective in mind, please drop any expectations that your mother will accept this move. Quite honestly, given her personality, she probably can’t. This decision flies in the face of everything that defines her. Accepting it would violate her basic belief system and trust me, most people will do anything in their power to hang onto their beliefs!

Your sister has made a wonderful, and quite practical, offer. It makes the most sense for two out of the three people in question. I recognize why your mother wants to stay put. This move will be difficult for her, especially at 84. I am sorry for this. Perhaps if you two had been able to work out a healthier relationship years ago, it wouldn’t have to be this way.

It’s going to take a few months to complete this move, so fortify yourself for the long haul. Begin with a conversation with your mother about why this move makes the best sense for all of you. Acknowledge the differences between the two of you and explain why living together would be difficult for both of you. Stress that her other daughter has made a wonderful offer. Let your mother know that this decision is non-negotiable.

Respectfully listen to her responses and reactions but don’t argue. She may try all kinds of tactics to get you to change your mind. Stay calm, loving and firm. When your mother brings this up, listen, acknowledge her feelings and move on to something else. Be consistent and hopefully, over time she will gradually accept what has to happen here.

And if she doesn’t? Remind yourself that you are not a bad daughter any more that she is a bad mother. Sometimes parents and children simply do not get along with one another.

Best of luck and let me know how it goes for you.