Saturday, June 05, 2010

Mother Muddlings

There could well be some contradictions below. I spoke to Mother this week and chickened out on mentioning her lack of money, more money from Bone Doctor and primarily, that she can't afford to continue to live in the house.

Mother's last letter told me about her 'friend', I know not who, who owned the cow that it is a tv advert which I have only half seen. Something about a cow playing Putting on the Ritz on a keyboard with its hooves. During the transport to film the commercial, the transport vehicle was involved in an accident and the float was smashed up. The cow emerged unscathed and unworried and after alternate transport was arranged, went on to make the commercial.

Part one, written early March.

It is clear to all, including Mother, that her living situation is not sustainable, mainly for financial reasons. Bone Doctor gave her $5000 for emergencies and peace of mind that will have to repaid at some point, but she has been making a dent on on it.

Various solutions have been suggested. She is dead against some sort of retirement village. She is dead against 'a poky little unit'. Beggars can't be choosers, you may think, but we children cannot challenge her. She is fine mentally and can physically manage ok, so long as we prop her up with help for doctor's and shopping and friends help out. She plays the helpless widow very well.

Her only luxuries are smoking and feeding the cats, a total of maybe $50 a week. Otherwise, she is quite frugal now, unlike in the past.

Her block of land could be dual occupancy done, with a new unit for her at the rear and knocking down the present house and building another. We have talked about this a little, but Tradie Brother has never run with idea.

She could sell her house and build a self contained unit or granny flat at ABI Brother's place.

We treat all such ideas with great levity. Sister says, well Andrew, you have a spare room. I say, Sister, it is the daughter's duty to look after her mother. After visiting the caravan and camping show, I am saying to ABI Brother, she could buy a Winnebago and park it in your driveway and live there. ABI brother rarely flushes his toilet in the interests of water conservation and leaves dirty greasy water in his sink and basin. They just could not live so close by.

Sister, I say, once Bone Doctor is permanent somewhere, you must buy a house with a bedroom for Mother. It goes on and on with much joking. None of us even seriously consider having her live with any of us.

She has said that she will stay in her house until she feels it is right to move. While we and friends continue to prop her up, the situation is prolonged. But what else can we do but look after Mother.

About a year ago we kiddies started to pay for Mother's private health insurance. She hadn't had it for years. She couldn't afford it but she was very concerned about being at the mercy of the public system. I believe in the public health system, but you do get to an age when you start to worry, so a few years ago we joined my work based health insurance. We haven't made a claim yet, but I expect we will. I also expect once the waiting period for Mother's cover is over, she will get serious benefit from it.

Eventually Bone Doctor's money will be so depleted, that Mother will realise that she just cannot continue to live in a three bedroom house and pay the bills. This must be the crunch time.

Part 2, written this week.

Mother is the biggest problem in our lives at the moment. Sister told me tonight that Mother has asked Bone Doctor for the rest of the promised $10,000. Mother has received $5000 already and has spent it in a bit over six months. Some people can survive on a pension. Clearly Mother cannot. She is not spending money on luxuries, except for cigarettes, maybe $50 a week, maybe more. She is smoking more since Step Father died and he has stopped yelling at her for lighting up. I will remind her the next time she wants me to take the curtains down for washing because they are looking grubby. Why might that be Mother? The cat food for the strays cost a bit. They evidently need special cat milk too. The only heating or cooling Mother has is an old air con unit. The gas heater irreparably failed a couple of years ago. Her last electric bill, over Autumn, the time we have a minimal heating/cooling bill, was $500. It does include cooking and hot water, but even so. She spends a lot at the chemist on attempts to cure her ills. Mostly fruitless.

The already supplied $5000 was supposed to be emergency money, some of which might go to efficient heating and cooling. Fat chance.

Her council rates had to be paid, $900. Perhaps I need to tell her about budgeting?

Clearly she can't stay in a three bedroom house on a large block and financially survive. She has no great attachment to Pakenham, apart from ABI brother living there now. I did ask her.


1/ Tradie Brother steps up and builds five units on the block. Mother will have one. This needs to be financed and is very complicated financially. I will directly ask Tradie Brother and see if it can be struck off the list or he likes the idea. (I did ask and he doesn't like it)

2/ Granny flat in ABI brother's back yard. He has a corner block and it is feasible. It is a bit out of town and Mother likes to observe the street life. She would feel locked away.

3/ An existing unit, almost a direct change over. Easiest, but she says, oh, neighbours would know my comings and goings and my business. Hello? They do already.

4/ Retirement village. My mother is just so not the retirement village type. They are generally quite expensive too. She needs to free up some capital.

5/ Not sure if sister's new house is capable of hosting a granny flat. Everytime I tell Sister that it is the duty of a daughter to look after elderly parents, Sister points out that we have a spare bedroom. Cow.

I think Bone Doctor will give Mother the rest of the money, but gee, she and Sister need the money themselves for their new house. And Mother needs to realise that her situation is not sustainable and that she is living beyond her income.


  1. Anonymous1:21 pm

    Dear Andrew,
    it may not seem like it, but thousands are going through the different variations of what you describe. In the end, we will all be faced with the aging parents.

    Theres no "perfect" solution, just muddle along, do the best you can, and you will get through with a clear heart.


  2. Thanks Michael. We are all out of our depths, but most would be hey. It isn't something you get a lot of experience at.

  3. Anonymous6:43 pm

    I see this alot when looking after patients at work. Families going through the very same motions as your family is. Family dynamics change easily.
    My best friend and her mother had their gran in a lovely granny flat out back. Of course, it was on a big country block (in Leongatha..the blocks are long and wide).
    Since then, Gran passed on and so did my friend's Mum...and the house and the granny flat are rented out. It worked for them but probably would not for others.
    As you know, I had my Nan live with me. I loved her to bits, she was not a bother, yet she became hard to manage with dementia setting in...and so she did end up in a low level care facility.
    When people have their own lives it is a very difficult change to have someone live with you.
    You are right, cost of living, being on the pension and being in a three bedroom place is not feesible. Hard to have your Mum take it all in :( Such a shame.

  4. Did I not warn you dearest Andrew?
    First of all, check the medical insurance. You'll find that she'll be taken straight to hospital and given the best of care without it, it's only for elective surgery. She's a pensioner and ambulance is free. Having insurance won't keep her in hospital any longer than without.
    Don't do the building because she'll have to live somewhere while that's going on, your place?
    A retirement village with an option to nursing home should she require it is best. She will have her own place, privacy if she wants it or being able to mix with new people. Places like this usually have a community bus for outings so take her to see a few but watch the fine print regarding the money involved.
    We tried as long as possible to keep the house but now the money is allowing mum to have everything she needs without us worrying about how to pay for it.
    But your mum will have to think it is her idea and that you are not going to abandon her.
    Lotsaluck, you'll need it.

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  7. My Nan was dead set against moving into a retirement home, she was downright petrified of it. But it happened and she now says it was the best think she has done. She has more of a social life, has to spend less on keeping her aging house from falling down and she's got peace of mind that if anything happens it has a nursing home attached to it.
    People are always afraid of change, but sometimes it can be beneficial.

  8. Poor you, not an easy situation to face, not looking forward to it myself. I'm with the retirement village option. Know a couple of people who said the same "No, never, ghastly" and then on moving in said it's fantastic. See if you can at least get her to an intro night. Good luck. Ps love your family descriptions!

  9. Thanks Cazzie. Sounds like you have had more experience than most already.

    Jahteh, her private insurance is very important to her. She can now claim after waiting 12 months and has already had her, well our, moneys worth out of it by having a test when and where she wanted to and staying overnight, even though that is unusual. Retirement place would be my choice. We will work on it, subtlety. I think ultimately she will be happier.

    Fen, that so often seems to be the outcome. I can understand the fear though, for sure.

    Thanks Cheryl. Yours is the umpteenth good result I have heard. Intro nights? Hmm, never knew about them. Must do some serious research. Pretty accurate descriptions they are. :)