My husband and I are in close, regular contact with my mother-in-law and just got back from a lovely visit. She wants to move. She is 86. This happens once or twice per decade although this would be the 3rd
move in 11 years. Each time she makes lists of reasons (needs surrounding social & cultural/arts issues) for the move, documents her current unhappiness and why the move is essential (ASAP).
On the most recent visit we could feel the agenda approaching and we tried to talk to her but it is very hard to talk to her about it without her tears of despair. She struggles with depression and has been treated for it in the past but is currently refusing mainstream medical treatment. She is physically quite sturdy and is active in a community orchestra.
My husband has lovingly supported her financially for well over 20 years and has been sole support for the last 8 years. The last time around we tried to get her to move closer to us. She found this completely unpalatable because she feels strongly that she needs the wide open spaces and mountain vistas of the western high dessert.
This time, if we actually move her, it makes sense for her to move closer to us (she’s in rural California, we are in Northern Va). She refuses to consider any kind of senior living or graduated care arrangement. [The new place she wants to be] is a snowy, western mountain community 60 miles from her current home. She is now driving there on Sundays for church and is positive that it is the perfect place for her. There’s nobody but us to care for her.
Charlotte, Bluefield, VA
Your mother-in-law sounds like a spry 86 year old judging from her ability to make a 60 mile drive once a week as well as to participate in a community orchestra. I understand that it makes sense to you to have her move closer, but this isn’t about what’s best for you alone; your mother-in-law has to be happy too. Is it always best to live far from an aging parent? No. But in this case, I think it works and my strong advice is this: don’t try to fix what works.
If you try to strong arm your mother-in-law into moving East, you may actually deepen her depression. No one wants to be told what to do, least of all a grown, mentally competent woman with an altogether different idea of what’s best.
So when you and your husband find yourself wanting to say, “Mom- Move close to us!”, take a step back and ask yourself if both parties will benefit from that decision. If the answer is no – and that one party may do poorly – then let things be.
Hope this helps.