How can my brothers keep Mom safe in the bathroom without anyone being uncomfortable?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Gailcawley asked...

My mother had a fall resulting in a brain injury and it was discovered she has bone cancer. The doctors said falling usually results in the death not the cancer.

My mom is only home a week. My brothers are staying with her and she went to the bathroom by herself and fell. She seems okay but I requested they stay with her in the bathroom to make sure she can get assistance so she wont fall. They refused because it would make them and her uncomfortable. They believe only a woman should handle that function. I live two hours away and will do weekend care while they do the weekdays. I need strategies so the can keep her safe while going to the bathroom while maintaining safety.

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

I am sorry to hear of your mother's illness. Family caregivers having to assist their parents in the bathroom is an issue that sends many elders into long term care. The fact that your brothers have gone to stay with her suggests a real willingness to help. Perhaps there is more room to negotiate than appears on the surface. I once had a client who kept her father at home until he died. Later she told me that she should have put him in a nursing home. "It is not right for a daughter to clean her father's private parts." She was very definite about it. For some people this is true. It is a taboo, a violation of some condition of the relationship. For others it is a form of resistance. Many adult children are not bothered by attending to the personal care needs of their parents, but your brothers are. If they simply cannot go through their resistance, then there are choices based on financial and emotional considerations.
"¢ A bedside commode could be placed right by her bed. (If she is bedridden). Without a long distance to walk, falling may be reduced. "¢ You could hire a woman to come for several hours a day. When she leaves, your mother could wear an incontinence product. Pull ups might work so she would be able to change them herself. "¢ Your mother could live in long term care. "¢ When falling is caused by a tumor, it is harder to control. "¢ Is your mother ready for hospice care?
However, I feel that none of these answers are getting at what you are going through. Your mother has been diagnosed with cancer and is falling down. She must be watched constantly for 24 hours a day to keep her from falling. You and your brothers may be so eager to help that you are doing too much. Could you get a consultation from a Geriatric Care Manager or a Social Worker who specializes in the care of older adults and with family conflict? Your situation needs to be addressed directly in person. If it must be solely a family caregiver circle of care, it still needs to be set up properly. If there are underlying conflicts with your brothers, these need to be addressed.

With low income, your mother may be eligible for case management to help. You could check with the Area Agency on Aging. Or with the county aging services.

Finally, some problems have no easy solution. I wish you the very best on the journey that you are taking with your family. Perhaps others on this list will see your question and share ways in which they have worked with these issues.