My 78-year-old husband and I are caretakers for our 42-year-old son who has multiple sclerosis. I am 75 and have recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and taking care of our son has become increasingly difficult for both of us physically. My husband has a heart condition. My concern is what will happen to our son when we no longer can take care of him. I would like to place him now in an assisted living facility. My husband does not want to do that. He thinks our son will feel rejected, even though we could place him close to where we live, visit often, take him to church on Sunday mornings and other outings. In home health care is out of the question because of the cost. I’m at a loss of what to do.
I am awed at the many forms that love takes. Thank you for sharing the way in which your family members care for one another in the midst of MS. You do not say how advanced your son’s MS is or to what degree he is capable of independent living as long as he has some assistance with the demands of the disease.
Knowing that people with similar struggles are the best advisors, I consulted the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (www.nationalmssociety.org) and found that indeed they are most gracious in their advice toward long-term caregivers such as yourselves. I hope that you have already found support there, but if not, here’s the number: (800) 344-4867. They are particularly helpful when it comes to what to expect in a transition to assisted living. It does represent a significant change for the person with MS – one that is not typically met with the sort of positive resilience that would make it easier on the caregivers. On the other hand, if your son is able to communicate his love for you, he can see that you are having difficulties caring for him. He will not want you to be in pain. In this family, where love has already taken many forms, perhaps you should not discount your son’s love for you and his ability to respond out of that in this difficult decision.
I hope that you’ll let a counselor through the MS Society walk your family through your choices and the very normal feelings around them. It helps to know that others have already traversed this difficult path and can tell you what’s around the next bend.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Paige Eaves
Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church
Dear Concerned Mom (& Dad),
Generally we expect such a question from working adult children who wrestle with the idea of putting their declining parents into assisted living, but we live in a fallen world, and unfortunate cases such as yours are not uncommon. In your circumstance the decision must be made soon while you still have the strength and health to make the transition.
I’m sure you’ve spent hours praying about this situation and you’ve probably drawn some measure of comfort knowing God is with you in this. But unless God decides to miraculously intervene, you should determine to make provision for sustained care for your son.
To get there, I would suggest you keep everything out in the open and everyone in the discussion. Invite the care facility’s representative to come and share the benefits of their services and contact groups like the National MS Society to see how others have handled it; you’re not alone.
Moving your son out may cause you guilty feelings, but had he not contracted MS, he would be living on his own anyway. It’s clear that you love him and you are showing it by making this hard decision that must be made. Doing nothing is also a decision, and that’s always disastrous in the long run.
Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
I’ll be a senior in high school this fall and have been accepted by several colleges. My plan is to major in Political Science because I eventually want to work in government. The college I’d like to attend is located in Washington, D.C. I want to be close to government offices to get a better understanding of the political system. My parents are pressuring me to attend a local college even though they tell me the final decision is mine. Either way, I’ll be living in a dormitory. I’m an only child and have a great relationship with my parents. I’m torn between wanting to please them and doing what I really want to do. Do you have any suggestions?
Indecisive, Loving Daughter
You are at a difficult, but expected developmental stage in your life: launching. Every young adult has the day they will leave the nest. It is difficult at best, but even more so when you have parents who are having strong feelings or opinions about this process. Sometimes this is a cultural issue, other times it is because you come from a close or enmeshed family unit, and still a further reason is that you are such a big part of your parents’ life that it is not easy for them to let you go. All these feelings are normal! But feelings do not always dictate that we are making a bad or unwise decision.
We have only one youth, one season to decide our first career path. Now is the ideal time before you have a spouse and children to consider. If this is your call and passion – go for it with enthusiasm. Yes, it will be painful, but choosing your desired career path will rarely lead you to a life of regrets. In this instance, I will tell you why: most parents do not want their kids to move away, even if they are encouraging it. It is a normal developmental stage for them as well. If you are the only child, it means the “empty nest” developmental stage has descended upon your parents. This may feel heartbreaking for parents, but it is something that is completely anticipated and normal. To not do what you feel called to do can lead you into unhealthy emotions, feeling like you have missed out or even bitterness.
So follow your dream and passion. It will be hard for your parents – but this is an inevitable stage for them. It will happen eventually no matter when decision you make now: when you marry, perhaps move away due to career or any sundry of reasons. But it will occur. So embrace this fortunate opportunity you have and allow yourself to feel both excited and sad. Adulthood brings many moments of joy, melancholy and sadness. It is healthy for us to realize this.
I wish you a bright and prosperous future. You are not disobeying by going … you are fulfilling being the adult you!
The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian is an ordained minister and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Montrose. Reach her at Kimberlie Zakarian Therapy, 2233 Honolulu Ave, Suite 310, Montrose, CA 91020, or by email at Kimberlie@kimberliezakariantherapy.com.
The advent of the college years brings tremendous excitement and many new opportunities, but there are inevitably some very tough decisions to be made as well. I feel for you as you face the choice of where to study – your predicament is indeed a difficult one. On the one hand, you truly want to make your mother and father happy – and what child would not, when they have such wonderful parents? On the other hand, you feel deep down that the proper place for you given your interest in Political Science is 2,500 miles away in Washington, DC.
This circumstance must be excruciatingly challenging for both you and your parents, especially since you are an only child. If your family’s financial situation is not a major factor in the college choice, which is to say there is no problem affording the presumably higher tuition of an out-of-state school, then the real issue to be addressed is the transition to independence and adulthood that every child and parent must navigate sooner or later. My advice to you is to heed the wise words of King Solomon, who in the book of Ecclesiastes said: “To everything there is a season … a time to plant and time to harvest … a time to keep close and a time to send away.”
You should have a heart-to-heart talk with your parents and in a gentle and sensitive manner explain to them that the past 18 years or so were the “planting” season, and now it’s time for them to sit back and appreciate the “harvest” of their labor. Of course, they want to keep you nearby, but every parent needs to recognize that at some point they must send away their child and let them spread their wings and fly on their own. Your desire to study at a more distant location is no reflection on the strength of your love and respect for your parents.
The decisions you make now will affect the rest of your life. It is therefore critical that you go where you can truly grow and progress to full maturity. I feel that even your parents, deep down, realize what is best for you and will wholeheartedly support your decision.
The tears and the heartache of separation will only be momentary. When your parents beam with pride at your graduation and when they observe with happiness your subsequent advancement in life, then today’s worries will be a distant memory. All of you will be able to appreciate the satisfaction of a decision well-made and a path properly chosen.
Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center