“I figured it would be pretty easy” Jim told me. “ I wanted to take the high road. I mean really, how hard can it be taking care of two sweet little old ladies? My wife Sue and I have a large house. Plus all our children have moved on their own now. And we have all this extra space. "
"Additionally, with me working from home it just made sense to move her mom and my mom into the house with us. I would be there all day most days in case of an emergency.”
Staying Home Alone Wasn't An Option
“My mom was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration and could no longer drive. Her severe arthritis made it hard for her to do a lot of things. At our home Sue would be there in the morning to help her get dressed for the day.” Jim continued.
A couple of mild strokes and the beginning of dementia meant that Sue’s mom should not be left alone. She could no longer drive either. Though she would probably be okay left at home alone for a few hours, she definitely needed someone to check up on her. Having Jim home with her during the day and also there at night gave us both peace of mind.
A Good Plan
The two ladies have always gotten along well. In fact, they're pretty good friends. So Jim and Sue figured it was a smart decision.
”I don't know what I was thinking!” Jim cried “ I guess I had some grandiose visions of how everybody was going to always get along great. I didn’t see it really changing much in our lives. We would all have dinner together and watch our favorite shows on TV. It would be fun.”
It Wasn't As Easy As I Thought.
It didn't take long to realize that this may not have been the smartest plan I ever came up with. To start off with Doris and Jess, my mom and mother-in-law, had different ways of running their households. On top of that it conflicted with the way Sue ran her household. On the weekends the three would butt heads in the kitchen. The two older ladies wanted to tell Sue how she was doing everything wrong. It was frustrating! But Sue was lucky. Most days she was at work.
“What was really driving me crazy was the way they would constantly vie for my attention.” Jim told me. I'd be trying to get some work done and one of them would come upstairs to ask me where to find the blender or the electric mixer or something else. I tried to explain that I was working and would come down later to help them find it.”
“We were just trying to bake your favorite cookies. Sorry to be such a bother”, they pouted.
Then they needed a ride to the store for an ingredient we were missing. An hour later the other one would have lunch fixed for me. “I fixed your favorite soup” Doris told me. “I know you've always liked it. Why don't you come sit down and have lunch with us.” I really needed and wanted to take the soup back to my office and get some work done. I didn’t dare!
And This Went On All Day Long.
"The first week I indulged them. But my business was suffering. I needed to get back to my work routine. If I didn’t leave my desk to come downstairs they would get huffy and pout. To them, I wasn’t really working because I was at home."
And there were doctor’s appointments. “ I had no idea these two ladies had so many appointments” Jim said. Between the primary care doc, a rheumatologist, cardiologist and a neurologist we seemed to always be at the doctor’s office. Added to that were trips to the dentist to fit for dentures and their eye doctors. I could count on each appointment taking at least 2 or 3 hours out of my day! Jim learned quickly that caring for these ladies could easily become a full time job.
Moving one aging parent into your home can be quite a challenge but two?
Sue and Jim quickly realized that they would need to rethink this situation.If they decided to keep Doris and Jess in their home, boundaries would need to be established. And furthermore help would need to be brought in. Sue and Jim each sat down with their own mom separately. They asked them how they felt the new living arrangement was working. They also asked them what they would like to see changed.
It's Important To Listen
They did not offer any suggestions but simply listened. The two ladies were about as frustrated as Jim and Sue were feeling. They were trying to fit into their new home but it wasn’t easy for them either. So the children asked their mothers to write a list of what they would need to have changed in order for this arrangement to work. Sue and Jim also made a list.
Everyone was asked to put down only what their needs were, not what they wanted someone else to do. In other words. Doris might say “ I need to know I have someone to drive me to the doctor or the store without feeling like it is an imposition. I don't feel independent when I always have to ask.” Likewise Jim might say. " I need 3 hours of uninterrupted computer time each morning and each afternoon." Once all of the needs were listed the family could come up with a plan.
Moving an aging parent in with you can quickly become a huge obligation. If you are not prepared and ready to meet the needs of your aging parent you may need to look at other options. Luckily for this family they were able to bring in extra help from a home care agency to take the two ladies to the doctor’s, grocery shopping and even to get their nails done. Their needs were met and so were Jim’s. He had peace and quiet to do his work.
As Certified Long-Term Care professionals since 2003, and members of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, both Sue and Allison have the training, knowledge, and experience to help you understand your options.
Sue Myers and Allison Younger
With over 20 years of experience, both women are committed to ensuring that their client’s long-term care needs are met while their wealth is protected.