Where to put your elderly parent: your home or care home?

SONY DSCSome people call us saints. Some people call us crazy. The fact is, we are just doing what many families do—being there for each other.

I’ll be sixty in November. My husband started collecting Social Security last year. He decided to take it early, at sixty-two. Our eldest celebrated his 35th birthday this week—making me feel even older.

It’s been years since one of our two kids lived with us. Both are married and doing exceedingly well in their careers. Our daughter is a talented graphic designer and our son just received another promotion in management with the company he works for.

Unlike some people we know, who complain about their adult kids moving back home, or having to help raise their grandchildren, we haven’t had those problems. We’ve been blessed with self sufficient, hard working children.

This doesn’t mean Don and I can take off and enjoy our golden years. Did I mention our mothers live with us? Both of them. His and mine. The ladies are each 86 years old. Now you understand what I meant about saints and crazy.

After we moved into this house we added a sitting area to one of the bedrooms, where my mother resides. A couple of years ago we built a guest house on our property for my mother-in-law. Fortunately the ladies are relatively healthy and are capable of taking care of their personal needs, however they no longer drive.

While both ladies are for now self sufficient, the situation has significantly clipped our wings. Don and I long to sell the house and move closer to our kids, but we can’t see how to maneuver such a move without displacing the moms.

Last month Don ended up in the hospital with an infection in his artificial knee. The knee was not the culprit, just where the infection settled. After emergency surgery, Don had to undergo six weeks of in-home IV treatment, which I administered.

The medical ordeal was a wakeup call—reminding us how quickly the years are slipping by. We’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to figure out how to enjoy our years, while not abandoning our mothers.

One option is purchasing an RV—something that will enable Don and me to escape for weeks at a time, and then return to home base and check on the moms, before taking off again.

Let’s see if we can pull this off.

(Photo: MIL cottage under construction 2012)

Living with the Moms


My husband and I are part of the sandwich generation – which Wikipedia describes as “a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.” Fortunately for us, ours is an open faced sandwich, with only one slice of bread. Our children, ages 31 and 34 are both self-sufficient, and have been for years.

But, we do have both mothers living with us – my mother-in-law and my mom. The ladies will be 86 this year.

Mother’s quarters are on the opposite side of the house from our bedroom, and includes a bedroom, bath and large sitting area. A couple years ago we built a guest house on our property for my mother-in-law. It’s 600 square feet and includes a living room/kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet and laundry room.

So far both women are in extremely good health. They take care of all their own personal needs, which include doing their own laundry and housework. Yet, they do rely on us for transportation – taking them to the store, doctors’ office and other outings.

Both ladies have given up their driver’s licenses. Mom relinquished hers when she was eighty, due to failing eye sight – while my mother-in-law gave up hers after breaking her femur this past spring.

People often ask us questions about living with our moms – the first being, Isn’t it difficult? Sure, it can be. But it isn’t just hard on us, it isn’t easy for them. For my mother-in-law, I don’t suppose she likes having to rely on us for transportation. When she was still driving, her daily routine included going to the grocery store and running other errands. While I detest running errands, it was something she enjoyed. For my mother, I think the hard part is sharing a home where she is no longer in charge.

Another question asked, Do you eat all your meals together? My mother-in-law prepares all her own breakfasts and lunches, and has dinner with us maybe 60 percent of the time – or more. My mother generally prepares her own breakfast and lunch, yet we sometimes take breakfast together – and sometimes she cooks it. As for dinner, mom usually takes that meal with us, unless Don and I are going out for the evening, or I simply don’t feel like cooking that night. Mom helps with the dishes, and regularly cleans the kitchen.

There are special perks for having the moms here – like when our grandchildren visit. Over New Years our daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and grandson visited us from Alaska. Our granddaughter, who will be four May first, loved visiting the GGs (as she calls them) – and would go out to the guest house and knock on the door of my mother-in-law’s, or visit with Mom in her sitting room.

We also had regular tea parties on the patio. That photo is of our granddaughter and my mother. Mom looks pretty good for 85, doesn’t she?