Thirteen days ago, while I was at my mother’s house, we got a visit from a social worker. I had just recently got in touch with Visiting Nurses to obtain some services for my mother, whose mental health had been slipping over the course of months. It reached a point where I thought she needed more attention, got in touch with her physician, and we got things moving.

Mom and Me
Mom and Me

The social worker was the last person to visit, but instead of talking to Mom she wanted to talk to me. We sat in the dining room and talked for just over an hour while Mom was in the other room watching TV. At one point in our conversation the social worker said to me:

“It’s time for you to step up and take charge. Your mother isn’t in a condition to manage her life on her own, so you’re going to have to do it for her. She’s going to fuss and fight but you must do it. She has no more privacy, and she doesn’t get to make anymore decisions. She took care of you when you were a child, now it’s your turn to take care of her.”

Ouch! I definitely needed to hear that because I’d been trying to allow Mom to have her privacy and independence, even though I’d had to take over doing a lot of things for her. I’d already taken away her ability to drive, and I had to write and sign all the checks because she couldn’t do it anymore, but I’d never looked at any of the finances or anything else. I knew I was going to have to make some moves soon, and when I got home that evening I decided it was time to start looking at some options.

Just about 35 hours later, things took a dramatic turn; my mother fell in her house. Luckily, a friend of hers stayed the night with her because she was concerned about my mother’s behavior earlier in the evening, which was erratic (I had a feeling something was going on but since I didn’t live close I’d called her and asked her to check on Mom). She was groggy and dizzy, missed a step and fell on the floor face down. The paramedics came and took her to the hospital, I got the call, and at 3:15 in the morning I was driving to a different city, trying to find that hospital in the dark.

The good news is that physically she was fine; just some cuts and scrapes. The bad news is that she was evaluated by hospital physicians and they determined that they couldn’t release her because, in their opinion, she could no longer live on her own.

Wow! In the space of just over 40 hours I’d gone from “you need to step up” to “the time is now”. In my mind I knew it was time to take charge, but in my subconscious, I was telling myself “I’m not ready”.

The funny part is that I’d started looking into assisted living centers the day after I’d come home from Mom’s house, with the intention of moving her closer to where I lived. I knew this was a good time to explore it because I could never convince her to move here previously. After the fall, everything escalated, especially because I knew that she was only in the hospital for observation, and if I left her there even one day too long it was going to get costly and have to be paid for out of pocket (she was never made an inpatient).

I spent the Monday following Mom’s fall going through many mental gesticulations, trying to find a place where I could move Mom. It seemed that every time I thought I had a solution, something came up and got in the way. By midnight Tuesday morning my wife and I both went to bed, trying to find some peace after a tough and erratic day. Our emotions were shaky and our thought processes jumbled. We were tired… and we’d be a bit more tired in a few hours.

My wife woke at 3:30 AM; I woke at 5. Separately, we’d come to the same decision; we had to move Mom in with us. There was no other solution, and the lucky part is that my wife used to be a certified nurse assistant and had worked with elderly patients. She not only knew what she might have to do but, because she knows Mom, it would make things easier.

It’s funny that, being an authority on leadership, when confronted with something this close to me I wasn’t initially ready for the challenge. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to deal with the severity of the situation before. However, when the time came that someone had to take charge and become the leader, I was up for the challenge of it all because it was necessary to do so.

I’m not going to lie; after a week I’m finding that suddenly having to be the leader of the woman who raised me is sometimes as tough as I thought it would be. However, that’s only about 15% of the time. That other 85% is not only going very well, but I’m glad to be spending more time with her, and so is my wife. I have to figure out all of her finances, get her taxes done, and work on ways to get her to sleep more, but I know I’m ready to take these things head on.

Sometimes we’re not ready to lead, but when all options are off the table, someone’s got to do what needs to be done. This time around, I’m glad it was me.

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