My father called the phenomenon “Monday Morning Quarterbacking”, aka “If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently.”
Thing is, I believe you make the best decisions you can with the information you have at the time. And you cannot regret the decisions you have made in the past, but you can learn from them. My mother taught me this valuable lesson. However, as I am able look back on the last ten-plus years without regret, I do admit to wishing I had altered the timeline of certain aspects of my mother’s care.
And the reason I am sharing with you now is the primary mission of this journal. I have learned so much from the people who have already walked the same road I am traveling now, and their advice has been invaluable. And while their situations may have been different, their experiences are hauntingly similar. So if my thoughts and ramblings can help someone else, I feel the need to share them.
Aspect 1: My mother lived a minimum of 150 miles and a maximum of over 1,000 miles from her family until she was 81 years young. She should have moved closer to family a few years earlier. Because by the time she was 78 years young, most of her friends had either passed away, moved away into assisted living or were living in a skilled nursing facility. She no longer had the caring support system she had enjoyed for so many years. Her friends were gone and her family was not close by. She was a people-person who found herself with no one to play with. She was alone.
Aspect 2: My mother did not stop driving until she was 88 years young. She should have stopped well before then. Her reflexes had slowed. Her sense of direction was failing. Her eyesight was not as strong. She was a ticking time bomb careening down the road in a dark-red four-door sedan begging for a tragedy to happen.
Aspect 3: My mother lived independently in her own apartment until she was 92 years young. She should have moved into assisted living before the age of 90. Because it would have been an easier transition for her. Because it would have removed the burden of her taking care of her finances, and preparing her meals, and taking her medications, and keeping her apartment clean. Which would have allowed her to focus on the activities she enjoyed. And give her a 24/7 support system in the bargain.
But I know why I chose my timeline. My mother is a fiercely independent woman. And highly intelligent. And I didn’t have the heart to deny her a lifestyle so integral to the person she is. I chose instead to dance with the devil of my mother living on her own for as long as possible. I thought I was doing her a favor and making her happy. I thought maybe, just maybe, she could stay independent until she drew her last breath. I thought I could keep taking one day at a time, thankful for another one passing without her hurting herself, or hurting someone else.
Thing is, she did get hurt. No, I am not talking about her falling and breaking a hip. Or running a red light and having a car accident, injuring herself or other travelers. But as her dementia kicked in…quietly yet quickly…and she was unable to mentally process what was happening to her, I watched her emotionally shrink before my eyes. As the arthritis in her hips and knees got progressively worse, making walking without assistance an impossible task, I watched her physically shrink before my eyes
I should have pulled the trigger earlier. I could have made her daily life so much better so much sooner. I wish I would have known then what I know now.
So, my recommendation to you is don’t dance with the devil I did. Take a step back and look at your situation with a fresh perspective. Don’t put off what you know in your heart is the right thing to do simply because you think you are doing your loved one a huge favor. Or because you are afraid of fighting yet another battle in a war you don’t think you will win.
Don’t wait. Not one more single heartbeat, not one more single hour, not one more single day.