Our Two Cents | Siblings worry over next life step for aging parent

We are a close-knit family of two sisters and one brother. Our dilemma is that our 82-year-old mother is now at the stage of life where she really can’t live on her own. My siblings and I are trying to figure out the best living situation for her and for us. Two of us live in the Bay Area (my brother conveniently lives in New York City). My sister and I want to find some suitable assisted-living space, but my brother strongly feels it has to be a Jewish place. The options are slim — what should we do? None of us feel we have the room for her to move in with us. C.S., San Francisco

Sharon: As the mom here, I have to defend your mother’s right to choose her own living situation. If she is still of sound mind and body, then give her the respect to decide how to live out this last stage of life. If you are truly worried about her safety, make some arrangements to share weekly visits between you and your sister who live nearby, and have good part-time caregivers help out on other days.
If you have children, why not let them in on a regular visitation schedule, too? Your brother should be enlisted for several longer visits each year to relieve you and your sister of the weekly responsibility and allow for some family time all together. I am sure if the three of you are as close as you say, then you will be able to come up with an arrangement that keeps Mom happy and is not too much of a burden on any one sibling.

Saul: The first thing you need to do is have a face-to-face family meeting that includes your mom. If she just needs help with her grocery shopping or other errands, that should be easy enough to arrange. When she does need to move to some assisted-living care, your mom should be able to choose the place she feels is the best, whether that is a Jewish place or not.

Jessica: What is most important is that your mom is in a place where she is comfortable, whether it be a Jewish home or not. I believe people want to be independent, but being surrounded by company is also incredibly valuable in keeping one’s mind sharp and spirits high. Why not let your mother choose where she would be happiest? You should all agree that if she wants to be in her own home, then you will respect that decision and reassess the situation in three months. How about having weekly family dinners and daily calls to monitor how Mom is doing? It is best to all be on the same page and remember your common goal — for your mother to be safe and happy.

Alexis: If the debate is simply over a Jewish or non-Jewish assisted-living situation, then it’s clear that what matters most is your mom’s opinion. While it sounds like you and your siblings are well intentioned, the only person that should really get a say in the Jewish or non-Jewish debate is your mom — she’s the one who will be living there. I suggest you sit down with her to have a conversation about what she wants and needs. This is ultimately what really counts.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.