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Living with an Elderly Parent: When my Mother-in-Law Moved In

When the topic of Grandma (aka my mother-in-law) moving in came up, I’ll admit I was nervous. We haven’t always seen eye to eye on things. We are quite different.

The thing I was certain of was the fact that I was lucky to have room for another adult in our house. More importantly, she is a woman who had put everything into raising her three boys and had participated in the raising of my four girls by babysitting and other types of visits. Her husband passed away, and there was no real reason not to offer my home.

I am very active, and the two children who were still in the house are very active. While we had plenty of room, we didn’t have extra time. The most important part of living with an elderly parent was the communication of thoughts and desires. I wanted to make sure my mother-in-law knew that I didn’t feel like I was doing her a favor. I wanted her to feel valued and needed. I made it clear that I didn’t have any illusions of never needing the same kind of consideration sometime later in my life, and that having her live in my house was an opportunity for all of us to connect better and to learn from each other. None of us know for sure what kind of help we might someday need. I look ahead and try to consider what my life will look like. I can only hope I am not too proud to feel it would be a personal inadequacy if I moved in with one of my daughters. It’s a shame we seem to have exchanged the pride of independence for lack of connection with family, particularly the elderly.

While Grandma was living in my house, I tried to make life appear less hectic. I tried to have regularly scheduled dinners. I also tried to touch base one-on-one with her every couple of weeks to make sure we were on the same page.

I notice if I am busier and have regularly scheduled visits with friends and family members, I am happier and worry less. With this in mind, I sent out group texts to the older children of the family and other family members asking them to schedule dates with Grandma so she wouldn’t get bored. I think this gave all involved a chance to feel worthwhile.

My mother-in-law moved out a couple of months ago. We had a big family meeting before she moved into our house and we all put our heads together to make a plan going forward. Our home was intended to be temporary. My brother-in-law was in the process of moving to a new house, and during the discussions of how best to address everyone’s needs, his family decided to have a house built with a mother-in-law set up. It is within the home with a separate kitchenette, small sitting area, bedroom and bath. It’s the best of both worlds for everyone.

I feel fortunate that our family had the benefit of good timing. We were able to set up a plan that accommodated everyone’s family in the best way possible. We all feel better about knowing what Grandma’s living situation is and will be. We also set up a life insurance policy to cover funeral expenses so there isn’t a situation that could cause financial difficulty for any of our families, considering college and potential wedding expenses for our children. We have also investigated potential living situations should she develop health issues, and established doctors and dentists for her in a town convenient for two of our families.

All of this allows the whole family to rest a little easier and prompted us to communicate better. All our children, age 8 to 32, have had an opportunity to spend quality time with their grandma. They have all had a chance to see what life can look like as we age. Grandma gave us her time as a mother and as a grandmother and helped us learn to be considerate and communicate. We are grateful we’ve all had a chance to feel better connected through this experience of living with an elderly parent.

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