The "One-Year" Rule
“My mother has read and heard from others not to make any decisions for an entire year after Dad’s death, but this seems to have immobilized her! She calls us for every little thing and expects us to come running. She does not seem to be able to live alone. Can you elaborate on this 'one-year' rule we hear about so much?"
The theory behind waiting a year is to avoid making any major decisions while grieving that cannot be undone. This is not to say that grief goes away after one year. The advice to "go slow" gives those grieving a chance to adjust before moving forward.
Calling you multiple times per day or week to run over for minor things that can wait may be more than you can handle. Your mother may have been very dependent on your father and has transferred that dependence now to you. The good news is her need for you should decrease over time as she figures out how to do some of the things your father used to do.
Even though you are all grieving the loss of your father, you will need to take the time to work with your mother to set up a reasonable frequency for you to stop by. Being called over to change a light bulb, fill a bird feeder or shop for milk is not an emergency, and it can wait until your next visit.
If your mother has physical needs (e.g. frequent falls, bathing needs, or severe anxiety), she may not be able to wait a year to make a change. It depends on what she is calling upon you for.
Talk with Mom and be honest about what you are capable of doing for her. If her needs exceed your capabilities, and she truly has the need for care, offer to help her find it. There are many caregiving solutions from a handyman, housekeeper, bath aide, to a live-in that will make her life much easier.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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