My poor, overworked, lonely, non-English-speaking immigrant mother is approaching 50. Her daily existence is a living hell. Short of winning the lottery, what can I do to improve her quality of life?
posted by Nomyte to human relations (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Language: My mother has been studying English in some way or another for over ten years (group classes, community college ESL). Her spoken English remains halting and rudimentary, to the point of leaving her unable to order food in restaurants reliably. She finds using English unpleasant and debilitating, and avoids English-language conversation in every way possible. She has no regular English-speaking acquaintances.
Career: My mother has held a number of menial jobs, from night cleaning staff member to dollar store cashier, usually several at a time, at all times of day, almost every day of the week. Her full-time job at the moment is care assistant at a hospital, which is physically demanding, low-paying, and depressing work. Most of her jobs involve taking explicit directions or repeating a simple process.
Education: My mother earned a four-year degree from a Soviet university in the 80s and, before coming to the US, had an HR job at a large industrial facility. No one advised her to get her education certified before she came to the US, and she never got an apostille. Doing so now would require sending the original papers to a dysfunctional bureaucracy in Eastern Europe. Since relatively recently she has been attending classes at a local community college. With her extremely limited free time, it will take her many years to finish any credential. The way she talks about her efforts makes it seem as if she is not talking to her advisor. She complains that her advisor is rude and unapproachable (I've met with him and did not form that impression). She is not sure why she chose her program, or what the requirements are, or what else may be available, or how this additional education may benefit her.
Family: My mother has no family this side of the Atlantic with the exception of me and my younger brother. Her ex-husband's extensive family lives in her city, but their behavior toward her has invariably been condescending and manipulative. She makes occasional calls to her older sister in Eastern Europe, but openly resents her for various reasons.
Religion: My mother does attend an Eastern Orthodox church on religious holidays, but her faith is completely ritualistic and even superstitious. She is not interested in sermons, teachings, the holy writ, or the company of the other congregants. Her participation is limited to carrying out certain rituals, under fear of supernatural punishment in daily life. In the past, she has been open to visits from Jehovah's Witnesses. She believes the supernatural has an active influence in people's lives, especially in matters of health.
Health: My mother has chronically low blood pressure, complains of fatigue, suffers from occasional edema, and is overweight (despite more or less living on air). She neglects regular preventive care. Her PCP of many years is Russian-speaking. My mother complains that her doctor is incompetent and ignores patients' concerns. In response to why she doesn't switch physicians, she says that "doctors never help." She is a strong adherent of alternative medicine and has a collection of tracts on how to cure heart disease/arthritis/cancer with blueberries/apple cider vinegar/dilute human urine.
Mental health: My mother has an advanced hoarding problem. As a result, she's had trouble getting her lease renewed. At one time I found her physically unable to sleep in her bedroom. Her minivan has no room for passengers. When I mention this to her, she reacts in ways that are typical of other hoarders — extreme agitation, childish evasiveness, pressured speech.
In summary: My mother is a stoic and makes absolutely no demands on me. Given the above, I worry that her already difficult existence may suddenly become a lot more precarious — because of health, money, work, whatever. She has clearly been unable to make successful plans for this stage of her life. And no matter how eager and ready I may be to help her with anything she might need, I live in a different state and have very finite resources of my own.
What can I do to improve my mother's quality of life and help ensure her continued relative well-being?