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Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Your children may be adults, mine are, but they are still your children, and you are still a mom. And this, my friends, is what makes it hard for our children to care (as in take care of) for us. Do you watch the television show This Is Us? It is one of my favorite shows, rich in innuendo and subtext. Last week’s show presented a beautiful and thoughtful representation of the amount of work that goes into caring for someone whose mind is drifting away. Caring for mom is one of the hardest things a child has to do. After all, mom has traditionally been caring for you, the child. Putting the shoe on the other foot is not a simple task. There are, though, ways to make it easier. This is what I want to talk about today.

Start the Conversation

This is so hard. You don’t want mom to think that you think she is going downhill and losing her mind. How do you have a conversation about her wishes without making her think that you want her to change her way of life now?

Set yourself up for success by priming the pump. Let mom know that something is on your mind and that you’d like to have a conversation about it when she has a few minutes. This lets mom know that this is more than “will you babysit”.

You don’t have to have all the answers and neither does your mom. It’s more important to pose the questions and then let them stew. Each of you can do a little research and then set aside time for another conversation.

By the way, I’m singling out mom here, but this applies to dad, too.

Be Prepared

You and your mom may become a little uncomfortable with this topic. Let her know that caring for mom is one of the most important things you can do to reciprocate for all the care she has given you.

Do a little research to learn about things that your mom can do now.

You may get push back with a remark like “you don’t need to worry about me” or “you have more important things to think about”.

Try responding with “I don’t want to worry about you, I want to make sure I know your wishes ”.

The best time to have difficult conversations is when you are confident your mom is lucid and in control of her mental faculties.


Does your mom want to stay in her home?

Is that financially feasible?

If it is financially feasible, does it make sense? Could someone (a rotation of caregivers) stay at the house with your mom?

Would she prefer to stay with you?

How would your partner/spouse feel about that?

What Does Caring for Mom Look Like?

In the beginning it may be simple to attend to mom’s needs. It can become more complicated as time goes on. You may want to talk about the possibility of hiring someone to fix your mom’s meals, to go for walks with mom, to take her to appointments (other than medical ones which you would probably want to attend), and in general to keep your mom company.

What Can Mom Do Now?

Whether or not your mom stays in her home she can start by downsizing her things.  Make a project out of clearing closets, drawers, attic, basement, and garage. Remove everything she doesn’t need, use, or love. This includes all the little bits and pieces. You know, the bottom drawer of her desk where she may have stashed cards or letters.

Doing this now means that you will not be tasked with this chore down the road. Encourage mom to do this with a friend, if she wants, or with a professional organizer. A trained professional organizer can make suggestions on ways to keep memorabilia so that she keeps with her the truly meaningful items.

Have you heard of Swedish Death Cleaning? This is a real thing and no it is not morbid. It is a strategy for ridding your home of all the things you don’t need later in life so that your children do not have to do it once you have passed away.

This conversation revolves around the home. There are other conversations to start and questions to answer.

As a mom, if your adult child starts asking these questions have an open mind and work through the possibilities with them. Uncomfortable conversations often lead to great peace of mind.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.  


  • Great advice. I am lucky that my mom moved into a senior community in her late 70s where she is well cared for and still independent. As she has aged, she’s needed more help (she’s 90 now) and I have learned to start the conversation and then give her time to think about it. Putting pressure on her to move forward quickly doesn’t work. But usually, she’s open to help after she’s thought over the pros and cons.

  • Seana+Turner says:

    It is so much easier to have these conversations when everyone is healthy! Then it is a discussion about something that will happen in the future, and doesn’t feel as scary as making decisions for now. I remember reading the book, “Being Mortal,” and it was so helpful to me. It encouraged me to bring this topic up with my parents, and we have had many helpful conversations. I also initiate conversations with my own children. Hopefully I won’t have need of care for many years, but I want them to know that I’m not afraid to discuss these things. Such a great post!

  • This is a tough conversation, thank you for sharing some tips to approach the topic.

  • Nicole Ramer says:

    Thank you for taking the time on Mother’s Day to share your thoughts on such an important topic! It is such an important thing to do for Mom – help her downsize her things BEFORE it is time to move, or sadly, pass away. Great article, Diane!

  • Oh, Diane, this is such an important post. I had some of these conversations with my mom and it wasn’t easy. But when it came time for me to take control, when she no longer could manage, I knew her wishes. It was so helpful because even if you know what your parents wishes are, it still can be hard to honor them. It’s challenging, heart-wrenching to go through all of the emotional ups and downs of losing someone slowly as they decline cognitively.

    There were hundreds of times when I had to make decisions on my mom’s behalf. They were often life/death choices. But knowing what she believed and wanted made making those decisions a lot more clear. Having POA, wills, banking, finances in order too was helpful.

    Wishing you a very Happy Mother’s Day!

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