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By Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle | June 2009

Her mom needs to go to a nursing home

Her mom needs to go to a nursing home

Jim says: Gina’s mother came to live with us a couple of years ago. At first, everything was fine, but now Mom is losing her mental faculties and doesn’t even know where she is most of the time. She’s wandered out of the house before, and I’m afraid she’s going to injure herself. She’s also become extremely irritable and loud – the kids don’t even want to be in the house on weekends anymore. I think it’s time she went to a facility where she can get more care.

I can take care of Mom in our home

Gina says: This is my mother we’re talking about! She took care of me when I was little and needed her; now, it’s my turn. I think Jim is just inconvenienced by having someone around who needs care – he seems to think life is all about fun on the weekends. I am not putting my mother in some home – I can take care of her myself. And frankly, I think it does the kids good to know that this is what’s expected. Does Jim want them putting us in a home when it’s convenient?

What do they do? Jo and I are at the age where we have experienced this scenario firsthand. None of us wish to put ‘Mom’ into a nursing home or extended care facility; however, sometimes it is necessary for the health, welfare and safety of ‘Mom’ and for our immediate families. Scripture tells us to honor our mother and father, but it should not come at a price beyond reason –  such as destroying Jim and Gina’s relationship and family unit. Honoring your mother and father is not the same as letting them become the focus of our own family unit, in the same way that children should not become the center of the family unit. The core of every family unit is the husband, wife and God. When we marry, a new core begins as we leave our former families to become our own family unit. The first task of a married couple is to emotionally separate from their families of origin. We can honor our fathers and mothers, but that is not the same as including them as core members of our new family unit. The older and more fragile our parents become, the more likely we will try and include them within our core family unit – often with devastating consequences for the couple. This is beginning to show with Jim and Gina.

As parents, we would not want to be the cause of splitting up our children’s marriages. Most of us are sensitive to that scenario. Yet, when it is our parents who need us, we feel strongly that we should be their primary care-givers because, as Gina said, “Mom took care of me when I was little and now it is my turn.” These are admirable words and highly commendable, but are of little consequence if Gina’s actions destroys her marriage to Jim. Having an invalid parent in the house affects all members of the house, not just the primary care-giver. Jo and I would highly recommend Gina and Jim have a discussion about their own wishes for how they would want their children to treat them if they are incapacitated. Once that is agreed on, apply the same solution to Mom. She may or may not understand, but your children will learn a far greater lesson than what they are seeing currently – that Grandma is tearing their parents’ relationship apart.

We would also recommend that Jim and Gina seek the input of medical professionals and social workers. They are skilled in handling these situations, provide an objective view and can provide valuable information that may help with the decision making process. But the best person to turn toward for assistance is God. Through prayer, tell him your fears and expectations. Pray for empathy and understanding, and pray for his guidance and wisdom to do what is best for your relationship and your family unit. It is possible that an alternative solution may work best. Such as bringing mother to the house for a few hours during the week or on an afternoon when the family can gather and give mother some extra love and care that she may relish at this stage in her life. Whatever the solution is, it should not be at the expense of Jim and Gina’s relationship. Mother would not appreciate it.