Forget Me Not: What will you sacrifice for your elderly parents?

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My mother-in-law, Janet Riley, is a saint. She left her home in Glenwood Springs last summer to temporarily move to Michigan to care for her elderly parents.

Not only did she leave her house and job, but she had to say goodbye to her husband, Tim, who graciously agreed to take care of their home while she’s away. Both of her sons also live in Colorado.

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Noelle Leavitt Riley

Her mother and father were in their 90s and still lived in their quaint home on Suttons Bay near Lake Michigan. It was clear to Janet that they needed assistance, so she took the selfless plunge into the unknown and moved in with them.

Sadly, her father, Benjamin Taylor, passed away last month, making the sacrifice even more powerful — she was able to be at her dad’s side during his dying days. What a gift. She still temporarily resides in Michigan to help her mother, who still lives in their home on the bay.

It makes me wonder what other people might have done in that situation. Would you move away from your husband and children to assist your elderly parents?

Janet sets a wonderful example that exemplifies an action that I pray will become a trend for Americans.

Too often, when I visit nursing homes through the Forget Me Not mission — taking donated flowers to the elderly to let them know they’re not forgotten by society — I witness senior citizens left all alone by their families. They have pictures of their sons, daughters and grandkids who they say rarely visit them.

It’s heartbreaking and so very unnecessary.

We should all tip our hats to Janet.

I recently came across another selfless person from Craig who moved his 95-year-old mother into his home in Las Vegas rather than allow her to go into a nursing home or assisted living.

Kenneth L. Hall was born in Craig, where his parents, Kenneth and Stella Hall, lived for several decades. He sent an incredibly thoughtful letter to the editor to the Craig Daily Press in January, asking residents of Craig who know his mother to send her letters, letting her know she’s not forgotten.

Amazingly, the community responded and sent her dozens and dozens of cards and letters. Kenneth composed a second letter to the editor thanking the residents for their generosity.

I recently spoke with Kenneth, asking him why he decided to have his mother live with him rather than send her to an assisted living facility.

“She said it would be OK with her. When you put someone in a care home, although their body and health is cared for, they’re still sitting there waiting to die,” he said. “My mom is in (my) home, she has her own stuff with her. She has her dining room table, she has her own clothes, she has her own bathroom.”

He said the situation might be different if she suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Often, situations happen that make a nursing home the only option for families.

But not Stella.

“It’s her home. She’s not sitting here waiting to die. We planted roses outside. She’s here with me,” Kenneth said.

I then asked him if it was a burden to take care of her.

“It’s not much of one. She took care of me when I was a child,” Kenneth replied.

Amen. Good for Kenneth.

He did mention that at times it can be rough watching her get older, but overall it’s well worth the sacrifice.

Stella has nursing staff visit her three times a week to help her bathe, and Kenneth ensures that she sees the proper medical personnel for her health needs.

Now, I know that not everyone is in a situation where they can move in with their elderly parents like my mother-in-law did, and not everyone has the resources or space for their senior loved ones to move in with them, but I hope that when faced with what’s next, this story registers.

If it’s not possible to make such sacrifices, and you have a loved one who no longer has their independence, please take time to visit them in the nursing home or assisted living facility. I know it’s not always a pleasant experience, but it’s not about us — it’s about them.

It brightens their day — heck, their week or even their month. Imagine being in their position. We might be there someday.

Noelle Leavitt Riley is the managing editor of the Craig Daily Press and the Saturday Morning Press. She and her husband, Shawn Riley, run the Forget Me Not organization that takes donated flowers to elders in nursing homes, letting them know they’re not forgotten by society. Contact her at 970-875-1790 or nriley@craigdailypress.com.

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