Mom’s requests for help can be handled by others besides you

Q: I want to talk to you about my mom.

Mom is a bright lady, not all that old, and capable of being on her own. She seems to love her little house and she has a good set of neighbours who drop in on each other and keep tabs both on who might need an extra hand that day and who might want a few extra things from the grocery store.

But Mom is not doing all that well. Since Dad died, two and a half years ago, she has devolved into a bit of a whiner, not capable of figuring things out for herself, and always needing a hand from us with this, that and other things.

She can’t make her cellphone work, her computer is forever jamming on her, her vehicle, although fairly new, is always breaking down and any number of bills and accounts are being called to task by her banker almost weekly.

We get over there to help her as much as we can, in fact more than we can, but all that does is generate more calls from her and a distinct aversion to self-maintenance. This is too much. We need some time for ourselves and our own family.

We cannot be going over there all of the time. But other than admitting her to long-term care, which is what she obviously does not need, we are not sure what to do. Can you come up with some suggestions for us?

A: I think that your first task is to start changing the question which you ask your mom and which you likely ask yourself as well.

The question you are asking is, “what can we do to help you?” You seem to ask it regularly, actually with almost every phone call, and my guess is that it is so bad you almost dread picking up the phone these days for fear it will mean asking the question, spending more time away from home and embellishing the frustration for both you and your entire family.

Let’s change that. Your new question is “What are you doing, Mom, to make things better for yourself?”

That places the responsibility back on your mom’s shoulders. I know that it is not easy. We live in an increasingly complex world. You can do more with your little cellphone than your mom could even have imagined when she was younger.

It is all different now. We know that. But there are a ton of people out there whose job it is to help people like your mom work her way through the complexities of modern technology. They are great. They are well-versed, knowledgeable and fluent. Your mom needs to talk to those people. And if she does talk to them, and she gets confused then she needs to phone back and talk to them again, and to keep phoning back until she finally figures it out.

I am talking about advisers everywhere, the tellers in the bank, their financial consultants, her family doctor, maybe even the nurse practitioner working for homecare and, as I said, all of those whiz kids manning the phones in the electronic maze.

Your job is to arm yourself and your mom with a long list of phone numbers and other contact information to which both of you can refer when Mom phones you with one of her problems. Refer her back to the contact list and then go about finishing your own supper. That might help both her and you.

By the way, your Dad has only been gone for two and a half years. Is your mom perhaps a little lonely? Do you think that some of those phone calls, and other ploys she uses to connect to you, might disappear if the two of you snuck out Saturday morning for breakfast in the mall?

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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