Dr. Cheryl Woodson

SPRING FORWARD INTO TOUGH DECISIONS: Should Mom Move In With Us?

Caregivers here in the Midwest had to dig out from more than 80 inches of snow this winter. Many found themselves driving over to dig Mom out, too. This made Midwesterners take another hard look at a question that concerns families all over the country, at any time of year: “Wouldn’t it be safer for Mom, and easier on us if she moved in here? “ When you decide to move seniors into your home, you know you’ll have to provide a safe, comfortable space, but don’t forget these other critical issues:

Become an excellent time manager. Don’t get blindsided because it’s your night to host the book club, but Dad is already in the family room, watching Wheel of Fortune. Don’t have Mom and Junior fighting because it’s her poker night, but his band is practicing. Work this stuff out in advance.

You shouldn’t be on call 24/7/365 just because you live there. Other family members may see this change as an opportunity to bale, but let them know that you still have a life. Even if your family made this decision to stretch finances, try to continue at least some of the services you used when Mom lived alone: transportation, day centers, and other senior services.

Your parent is an adult. You want to protect your parents and preserve their health, but you don’t get to control them, or ignore their feelings just because it’s your house. You can’t tell them when they should nap, what they should eat, or restrict their activities unless there’s a medical reason.

You are also an adult. No matter how old we get, our parents may still see the need to instruct, or control us. We have to understand that we are adults, hearing our parents’ comments with “big kid ears.” You aren’t eight years-old anymore; you don’t need them to tell you you’re a good girl (or boy.) You really don’t. You do have authority over your life. Don’t get trapped into knee-jerk responses to old emotional triggers. Your parents don’t pose a threat, and you don’t need to defend yourself. You can afford to be gracious, letting comments roll off your back, without arguing, crying, or being disrespectful. Just remember; once you’re grown, respect doesn’t equal obedience. Thank your parents for their concern, and do what you’ve decided to do. I’m not delusional. I know this won’t be easy, but if you don’t believe you’re grown, why should they?

Don’t mix your senior’s finances with yours. This keeps you out of jail for committing the crime of financial exploitation. It also keeps you aware of what you can afford to commit to eldercare without jeopardizing your own needs (e.g. savings for retirement.)

Everyone needs refuge. Every member of the household deserves space (or if space is limited, time) where they can find peace and privacy.

Many families enjoy living together, but even under the best circumstances, it can be stressful for everyone. Read the previous Geriatrics Assessment blog post, and download the Level of care Prescription (LOCRx) flier from the “For Caregivers” tab to find out whether it’s safe for your seniors to do what they want to do. Then, you have to decide if your lifestyle can accept their choices (like finding a place for a smoker in a non-smoking household.) Seniors deserve to feel welcome, and you shouldn’t have to struggle to avoid asking yourself, “why do I have to put up with this in my own house?” A family counselor can help ease the transition, but if the situation doesn’t work for everybody, find a social service professional to recommend other options.

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