A reader I’ll call Margaret got in touch recently to ask for some elder care advice regarding the mother (pun intended!) of all planning care conundrums: her mother-in-law wants to move in and it is NOT what she wants.
My mother-in-law has decided she doesn’t want to live alone any longer and wants to sell her big house. My husband and I agree completely (her short-term memory is getting really bad, the house is very big and remotely located).
Without consulting us, she planned to “rent a room” in our home. However, when she shared this plan, my husband said no – for a variety of legitimate reasons. Now we don’t quite know what to do. She is adamantly opposed to the following:
- assisted living communities
- apartments in a senior development
- buying a smaller, more manageable house near us
Any suggestions on how to proceed?
We want her to be safe, healthy and happy, but there don’t seem to be any “good” options.
It almost goes without saying, but THIS ONE IS A DOOZY.
Now that I’ve said that, here is my elder care advice.
The first thing to do in any planning care situation is to openly acknowledge the pluses…
Here are the pluses I see in this scenario:
- Mom recognizes that her current living situation is not working…
- She instinctively knows that she benefits from being around others as opposed to being alone and…
- She feels ready to do something about 1 & 2 above. And not just something; she’s ready to sell her house. This is a huge step and one that lots of folks don’t ever get past
- Margaret and her husband are in agreement that mom moving in is not workable (I wouldn’t point this one out to mom, but it is a very important plus!)
Next, do as Margaret’s husband did and…
Have a conversation with the older adult in which you acknowledge the situation’s pluses AND your own limits
Will the latter half of this be uncomfortable for you? Most likely.
Might it cause your mother to become upset, which in turn may make you more uncomfortable? I’m going to say yes to this one.
But understand that agreeing to a plan that you know in your gut is not sustainable will only hurt you and the older adult in the long run.
So you’ve honored the pluses and your limits…
Next you’ve got to give your mom/dad some time to absorb what you’ve said.
This isn’t likely to happen in a half hour or even overnight. In a situation like Margaret’s where the truth hurts (I’m assuming that mom heard the “No” from her son as a big OUCH), it may even take a few months.
Don’t despair. Let the dust settle. Keep your defenses down and the lines of communication open…
The best sign of progress would be that mom agrees to humor Margaret and her husband and check out a few assisted livings or continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). In other words, she agrees to rethink the alternatives to which she was adamantly opposed.
ACKNOWLEDGE ANY MOVEMENT IN THAT GENERAL DIRECTION and keep your seatbelt on.