Anyone who is charged with the task of caring for an aging parent, particularly the only surviving aging parent, faces a tough decision at some time in the time of their caregiver years. And that decision is whether to have mom or dad move in with you.
When that idea first comes to mind, you can probably think of more negatives than positives. It really goes against your orientation since you moved out of your parent’s home as a youth. Since then your entire goal was to live separately from your parents, not to combine them again.
How long you consider this idea depends on your living situation as well. If you are unmarried, separated or divorced, you may have the space in your home. And in that situation, you could combine your homes and save considerable money. You would not have to feel bad using a little of your parent’s retirement or Social Security money to pay the rent since you would be saving them so much. And who knows? It might be nice to have the company.
If you have a spouse and children, however, the decision gets a little more complicated. If the fact that you are even considering letting grandma or grandpa move in with you leaks to the kids, they will probably be extremely enthusiastic about the idea. After all, they love their grandparents and having them live here seems so ideal. But children are not aware of the additional stress having Grandma move in might cause.
Additional positives about the idea of letting Grandma live in your home is that you would be there at all times to help with her medications or to jump to her aid in the event of a sudden medical problem. And worry about your parent weighs heavily on you as primary caregiver because the last thing you want is for something to happen to him or her and you were not there to help. Having mom or dad in your home would eliminate those many car trips to their condo, apartment or assisted living center as well. You could include the food preparation in with what you do for your family and in every way, they could just blend in.
But when considering the big question of “Where should Grandma live?” most experts in caring for the elderly advise heavily against letting them live with you if it can be in any way avoided. For one thing, parents will be parents. And Grandma or Grandpa would not be able to resist getting in the middle of child discipline situations or being nosey about marital spats or issues that come up with teenage children.
Teenagers are elusive enough as it is without having to answer questions from inquisitive grandparents that are around all the time. Within the context of your family, you already have some fairly sophisticated conflict resolution systems. And those work because everybody can read each others signals. Throwing Grandma into that mix would be a disaster.
But the biggest reason not to have your aging parent live with you despite some attractive benefits as we have discussed is that you, as your parent’s caregiver, need to be able to get away from them for a while. Caregiver burnout is a big problem when everything rests on you for the health and well being of your parent. So it’s good for you to be able to go home and just let it go for a while. If that sanctuary away from the stresses of being a caregiver can be preserved, it should be at all costs for the health of you, the caregiver, your family and even for the well being of your parent. After all, maybe Grandma needs to get away from you from time to time as well.