Caring for aging parents is the responsibility of millions of Baby Boomers now, and it presents particular challenges since most adult children do not live in the same town as their parents.
Huntersville residents David and Brenda Scott found one solution for caring for both of their mothers, Vancy Scott, 89, and Elma Thomas, 100.
The Scotts, who have lived lakeside since the late 1960s, began thinking about what to do to address the issue of caregiving when David's mom, Vancy, was still living in Troy, and had many siblings still in that area.
"We contemplated turning the home into a large rest home for her and her surviving siblings," Scott said of the original plan. "But, we soon realized it was going to be too hard to manage from this far away," Scott said.
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Meanwhile, the house next to the Scotts went on the market, and David knew it was a golden opportunity. The driveway to their home is equidistant between the two homes. David's mom considered whether she wanted to make the move and less than a day later, she told her son she did want to move in to the home next door.
Following extensive renovations to bring the home up-to-date and to make it more livable for an aging individual, Vancy moved into the home in 2000. Brenda's mom had been living with the Scotts during the summers, so Elma soon joined Vancy in the three-bedroom home.
Neither needed much care, but the Scotts felt the impact of having their mothers close by. "For the first six years or so we couldn't just pick up and leave - we had to plan. They went with us on vacations, cruises, trips out to dinner, errands - really, everywhere," said David Scott.
But, as the care needs of their mothers have changed during the past three years, the Scotts' mothers haven't been able to participate in the daily lives of their children as much. The Scotts admit that they used to be able to focus on the socialization of their mothers, but that has now shifted to focusing on care.
Vancy now has dementia and some mobility issues and experienced a rapid decline in health in January. She also required overnight supervision because she was waking and wandering during the night around the house. "Because we had tried to set up something that we felt was better than an assisted living facility, we knew we wanted to bring care into their home, but we knew how hard it had been on us trying to do it, so we felt like it would be hard to find someone capable of handling the challenge" Scott said
At the end of January when the needs of Vancy were beginning to take a toll on the Scotts, they hired a caregiver. "It has made all of the difference to have a caregiver helping out. I might have spent an hour coaxing mom into doing something, but it will take Janie about 5 minutes to get the same results. It is such a relief," said David Scott.
As much as it is a relief to have gotten through the quick changes and more demanding needs of David Scott's mom, they both acknowledge they could have pictured it not going so well. "This was the biggest adjustment we've had to make during the nine years that they've been here," said Scott. Brenda imagines what life might have been like if their mothers had needed help while she was still teaching "If I worked and tried to care for them, I know I wouldn't have been able to do it," she said.
The timing seemed to fall into place for the Scotts to have a success story in caregiving. Their situation could have been much more complicated if they had both still been working, raising kids, or any number of other responsibilities that many caregivers face.
"The greatest thing is that our grandchildren get to be a part of their lives, and the activities surrounding the grandkids bring a lot of joy and entertainment to our mothers," said David Scott.
They both reflect back on their time so far as caregivers and see the challenges that came along with role reversal as well. "It can sometimes be difficult to get re-acclimated to the fact that you are caring for people again, particularly when you are finished raising your kids. When you start taking care of mothers, that's a different story. They are not accustomed to being told what to do, and you as the child aren't accustomed to telling them what to do. It can be hard to find the balance," said Scott.