Dear Barb—Assistance for Assisted Living

Dear Barb:

I am the oldest in a family of three girls.  We have always gotten along well and been really close.  Our father passed away five years ago, and our mom stayed in the family home.  She has been able to manage well until recently.  She had a slip in the bathroom and injured her leg, and now she is not able to get around very well.  We have had personal support workers coming in when me or my sisters can’t help.  It seems to have worked out well, but in the last few she is becoming short tempered with the PSW and doesn’t want them coming into the house anymore.  She only wants me or my sisters to care for her.  We discussed bringing her into one of our homes, but since we all work full time and have kids, we thought that it wouldn’t be the best option for mom.  All three of us feel mom needs to go into assisted living.  Unfortunately, she does not want to do that and is making this decision very difficult for us.  She has heard horror stories about people being abused or even killed in nursing homes.  Like that nurse, Elizabeth Wettlaufer, who killed eight elderly patients in Southwestern Ontario.  We are trying to calm her fears, convince her this doesn’t happen all the time, and that it was a one-time thing, but it is not working.  My mom has enough money to be able to move into a good quality nursing home.  Do you have any suggestions that would help us make mom more accepting of this decision? Thanks, Cindy.

Hi Cindy:

You are in a difficult situation that many adult children may one day find themselves.  As we age, for many of us, health issues will cause us to need extra help, or to be moved into assisted living.  Most people want to stay in their own home, where they are comfortable and familiar with their surroundings.  Unless there is a major issue, the goal should be to keep aging parents in their home.  Because of finances this may not be possible, however if a parent is in a home that is paid for, it is possible to obtain a reverse mortgage to free up funds to pay for nursing care.  The cost of having a personal support worker come into the home is usually far less than an assisted living facility; of course this depends on how much care is required.  You are saying that you and your sisters feel your mom needs to go into assisted living, but she clearly does not want to do this.  If your mom wants to stay in her home, she has to be willing to accept help.  My suggestion would be to get your mother assessed to see what level of care that she needs and see if there are any cognitive defects.  Your family physician can arrange for a social worker to contact you.  A social worker will be able to arrange for testing to assess what your mother’s needs are, and whether it is possible to keep her living in her own home.  You can find additional information about cognitive changes at the following website: Good luck Cindy and thanks for writing.