Caring for parents a choice for local couple
November 21, 2008
In 1994, Donna Beason made a decision.
After Donna’s father died the year before, her mother, Mable Beaulieu, was left alone.
At that point, Donna had a choice: either put Mable in an assisted living facility or care for her herself.
Donna chose the latter.
“I feel if more kids took responsibility for their parents when they reach the point when they can no longer live on their own, (the world) would be a much better place,” she said.
Fast-forward 14 years.
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Donna, 57, now a Craig resident, shares a multi-level house with her mother, her husband, Richard, 60, and his mother, Leota.
Last July, Richard made the same decision as his wife. After his father died in May 2007, he gradually moved his mother from her home in Florida to his in Craig.
Caring for his mother is a responsibility he gladly undertook.
“It’s a fulfillment of a desire to have my mother in my home so I can take care of her,” Richard said, adding that Leota chose to live with his family. “So it’s not a burden because it’s something I want to do.”
Although the Beasons are not alone in caring for their parents, the trend is rare in Northwest Colorado, said Regina Grinolds.
Grinolds is one of three Moffat County case managers for Northwest Colorado Options for Long Term Care, a Medicaid program operating in nine Colorado counties that provides in-home help for those who need it, including the elderly.
Few of her clients live with their relatives, she said, adding that of the 50 clients she serves, less than 10 percent live with family.
The most common services her clients need are help bathing, shopping and housecleaning, along with ensuring their safety.
Adult children who double as caretakers for their aging parents face multiple challenges, especially if the adult has to work and care for his or her own family, she said.
Everyone in the Beason home has had to adjust to make the arrangement work.
Fortunately, the Beasons’ house is configured so that Leota and Mable, both 86, have their own bathrooms and bedrooms separate from those of Richard and Donna.
“I’ve always been blessed with a large house,” Donna said. “They have their own space; I can have mine.”
Sharing transportation is a different matter.
Neither Leota nor Mable drive anymore, so their children take them to where they need to go. Furthermore, Mable is hard of hearing, while Leota has poor eyesight.
And for Leota, moving to Craig meant giving up activities, including golf, that she and her husband enjoyed for 27 years. Making the change was hard, she said.
“But you adjust, if you’re smart,” she added.
Donna and Richard do not regret taking their mothers into their home.
“I’ve always had a very, very close relationship with my mother,” Richard said.
Caring for his mother, he added, gives him a chance to “reciprocate” the care she gave him, he added.
One advantage of their family’s arrangement, she said, is that she no longer has to travel 2,000 miles to visit her mother in West Virginia. In addition, having Mable close allows Donna to keep closer watch over her mother’s health.
In her view, caring for one’s parents when they can no longer care for themselves goes against the grain of contemporary society, which emphasizes needs of the self against those of others.
“It continues a practice that went by the wayside when we left the farms and became an industrialized nation,” she said.
Give and take
Leota and Mable pitch in to pay household expenses and find other ways of helping around the house, including washing dishes. In Mable’s case, completing household chores is a matter of pride.
“I feel independent,” Mable said. “I pay my way, and I do for myself completely.”
The two mothers work well together, Richard said.
Most of the time.
“We fight over who washes the dishes or who dries them,” Leota said.
But resolving that conflict is as easy as who gets in the kitchen first, she added.
There’s also something deeper to their relationship.
Mable watches out for Leota, Richard said, adding that the latter has broken both her hip and shoulder recently.
And mothers aren’t the only ones who need care. Donna has found that she needs to care for herself, too.
“Exercise is important,” she said. “Eating healthy – very important, and making sure you get enough rest.”
Getting out of the house once in a while helps, too, she added.
For Donna, the last measure meant hitting the books. This fall, she began taking business and banking classes at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
Meanwhile, Richard, who is semi-retired, runs his own business and is a professional engineer.
Donna chooses not to work.
“School’s more than enough,” she said.
No answer to question
Donna and Richard have one child – a son, Edward, who lives in Newcastle, Wyo.
They both paused when asked if they would want their son to care for them when they can no longer care for themselves.
Neither had an answer.
Edward is their only son, they said, and they have no other family members living close by.
Still, for Donna and Richard, caring for their mothers is a duty they’ve willingly chosen. When the four of them spend time together, laughing and smiling usually follow.