By: Revanche

Parents: The top bread slice

February 13, 2011

On my last visit home, amid the other ramblings that have become the norm, my mom asked me an inevitable question: when are you moving me up to be close to you?

Ah yes, a mother’s love, powered by the unmatchable ability to fuel angst within the space of fifteen seconds.

Quite honestly, my answer had to be: I don’t know.

Even more honestly, I have no idea if that’s going to be the plan nor if I want it to be.

I recall, as a young kid, we used to jokingly debate as a family who would get to have my parents live with us when we kids got older and had our own homes. I always insisted that they would live with me, primarily, because I was an egotistical brat who was sure that I’d eventually grow up to be more successful than her older brother who had historically always kicked her butt at everything to date.  (It’s a shame that that pre-adolescent script actually played out to the extent that wherever I move my parents, I have no idea where he will live.)  

Now, though, moving my parents in with us, to a 2 bedroom apartment, though the financial savings might initially seem sensible, would probably not be a wise decision. 

To start off by being completely selfish, I need the distance for my sanity, at least for a while longer.  During the years of living with my parents through my twenties while I supported them because it was practical, despite the constant compromises and emotional churn, it took exiting the situation to appreciate the value of my own space.  Yes, the years of sucking it up yielded a fair measure of savings and stability, and gave me the foothold I needed to take the next step in my career. But I’m now not willing to give up the peace that half a state’s distance buys. 

Practicality plays a role

I didn’t need to move to the Bay Area to confirm that the cost of living truly is, even for a diehard budgeter like me, much higher than it is where they live now. 

A big part of why she wants to move up is because she misses me.  Moving her up here for that reason, though, doesn’t really make the most sense.  I’m still going to be working at least 40 hour weeks, probably 50 or more, and I’m not going to be around to spend time with her the way she imagines.  PiC won’t be either. 

Moving her up here also means moving her and Dad away from all their existing support network, such as it is.  All our family and their friends are down there.  Even though she may have alienated most of them through her behaviors, they’re still supportive in other ways and try to help my dad out when and if they can. 

What she truly needs is more round-the-clock medical care and attention than my dad, or we, can provide, and just being around us isn’t sufficient. In fact, the area we currently live in isn’t terribly safe and we don’t have understanding neighbors who are willing to look out for her and bring her home when she pulls a disappearing act.  

Rationally, the sum result of moving them up here would probably be negative all around. 

And still, without a doubt, the moment she finds out we have a guest room, she’s going to plead with us to be allowed to live with us. 

What would you do?

In Asian cultures, it’s been quite normal for the older generation to assume that they’ll live with their children when they become less able to live independently. 

In American culture, it’s much less common for the older generation to take it for granted that the younger generation will move them in when the time comes.  However, the Sandwich Generation has certainly experienced a great deal of the stresses associated with the care of their parents even without having to share a roof. 

Having grown up in a rather traditional household, I always assumed my decisions would be wholly informed by those traditions but they’re being vastly molded by the pressures of today’s economic and practical realities. 

I know what my dad prefers – the cheapest possible option that causes me the least burden, and I know what I want for them – the safest and most attentive care, and we have to find a compromise that is safe and affordable. 

Do you have a plan for when your parents reach a point when they’re no longer able to care for themselves?  Have they already discussed with you their preferences and how to achieve them?  Are you already dealing with anything like this with your parents?

18 Responses to “Parents: The top bread slice”

  1. Red says:

    Asian culture is SO interesting to me, specifically because of the reasons you’ve posted here. None of the older generation in my family has moved in with their children, though I’m sure at least a couple of them wouldn’t mind it.

    When I was much younger, I told my grandparents that when I grew up I was going to buy a big house, and we’d all live in it together. Of course, now I realize that not only is that not financially feasible, but I would probably want to pull my hair out.

    When my great-grandmother became too elderly to take care of herself – in her mid-to-late 90s – her children took turns basically living with her. She had 12 children, so the kids would alternate weeks living with her and watching out for her in her own home.

    Mr. Red is totally closed off to the idea of moving elderly parents in with us if they needed it. Of course, our parents are young enough that we have a good 20-30 years before it would even become an issue. But I would want to take care of my parents if I could – kind of a “hey, thanks” for everything they did for me when I was unable to care for myself. Plus, I’d want to be around as much as possible in their final years.

    I think in your situation it doesn’t make financial sense to move them into your neck of the woods and definitely not into your apartment. At least your dad is able to help out in some way, and there they have the support of family and friends. I can’t imagine the stress it would put on you and PiC to be the only support system she had.

  2. Simon says:

    I’m not Asian, but I married an Asian.

    We provide some financial support to my wife’s parents and grandparents because, as my wife puts it, its what’s expected and, given that she’s an only child, there’s no one to share the responsibility. I don’t have a problem with this, because I know that I would do the same for my parents in the unlikely event that it became necessary.

    However, we are in total agreement that there is zero possibility of any of the relatives moving in with us. Physical and emotional space needs would make that an impossibility.

  3. I’ve discussed it with my parents in a general way. I’m not Asian, but I also come from a culture that expects children to move back in with their parents. I’ve made it plain that they can move into my house any time they like, but I am not moving into their house.

    At this point we live within a half mile of each other, so it’s not as big an issue, but managing eldercare remotely is a HUGE undertaking. I’m not sure what I’ll do if they need care and I’m living somewhere else.

  4. Carrie says:

    most of the older members of my family have been able to live on their own into their 80s and 90s so i have a few more decades before i need to worry about my parents’ living situation. my great grandparents and my grandfather were perfectly happy to move into nursing homes when no longer able to live at home – my great grandmother even moved in before she really needed to because all her friends lived there anyway so i expect a nursing home is the route my parents with go in 30 or 40 years too.

  5. Bonnie says:

    I’m not Asian. My dad passed away, but my mom is in her 60s and NEVER wants to move in with me. I think she would refuse no matter how bad things got. We are very close but she does not want to intrude on my life or my brother’s life in any way.

    I think you have done such a tremendous amount for your family that honestly, you shouldn’t have to do anything else. I think it should fall to one of your siblings. But I do think that actually moving a parent in with you should be the last resort. Moving her a bit closer to you, OK. But listen to your dad.

  6. I am half asian and live with the BF’s parents who are asian. My grandma has lived with me and my family our whole lives and I would love for my parents to live with me when they are older… in 20 years or so. I know they would like to retire in a nice area but having babysitters in the future would be really nice! They have helped me my whole life, there’s no doubt I would love to help them out. Same goes to BF’s parents. I would like them to stay too.. as long as everyone knows the rules I don’t think it’s too bad at all.

  7. mOOm says:

    We are dealing with this now. My mother lives in the apartment building next door to my brother’s. This is on the other side of the world to me (in Western Asia :)). She already has someone come each day for a couple of days to look after her. The government pays for that. But it seems she needs more care (she is 79 and beginning to suffer from dementia). There are 3 options really. Live in carer (the person would get minimum wage plus free board – the government again might cover the salary). Old people’s home. My brother getting a bigger apartment or house by selling her apartment and his and buying a new one (he has a 3 bedroom apartment and 5 children…). Option 1 and 2 are the most serious at this point. It looks like 1 could happen faster but my mother doesn’t like the idea.

  8. I’m living with my parents right now. Maybe one day I’ll move out. Don’t know yet… I want them to be financially stable and (relatively) healthy before I feel that I can. So a part of me realizes that eventually I will take care of them in the long run especially because my Mom has already stated that she wants to live with me and not my brother. I’m not married or living common-law right now… So I haven’t really discussed this with my BF. He does know that my parents mean a lot to me though so he knows some adjustments might have to be made.

  9. Sense says:

    Grappling with this issue right now with my parents, as my uncle is sick and needs a full time, in-home carer and it reminded me that my parents may need the same before too long.

    i’ve begged my mom to look into long term care insurance and let me pay for it, at least for herself (her work offers some discounted form of it). my dad is too sick to qualify, but I’d sleep better knowing that at least my mom was taken care of.

    what a hard issue! I would move back to their house to care for them if there were no other options (and I could find a good job nearby), of course, but I hope that it doesn’t come to that.

  10. My parents can live with any one of us and we would be okay with it.

    I’d almost want to have them live with me, because then I KNOW they’re being well taken care of.

    It can be difficult to deal with it, but I know BF would be open to any of our relatives living with us, unless they’re parasitic bums.

  11. Kathleen says:

    Both my fiance and I are Asian and the oldest in our families and we both have felt the pressure of having to be more responsible as the oldest in our families. My parents aren’t even 60 yet and we haven’t discussed long-term care much, but I think the expectation is that they would come live with me or I would live with them if they required care. (My younger brother is a moot point at the moment as he can barely take care of himself.) I don’t think my fiance has had this conversation with his mom (his dad is also a moot point as he doesn’t care for the guy much) but I imagine she might want to live with us too, and then there’s also the matter of his disabled brother.

    Sigh. Before any of this becomes relevant though, likely the fiance and I will be moving in with them when we move back to the west coast. I haven’t lived with them full-time in over 10 years and I think they’re going to drive me crazy! I love them but wow, they get more and more neurotic every time I come home.

  12. Gasp! There’s a sword you don’t need to throw yourself on!

    Look, there’s a rather nice independent living community in SF for lower-income seniors. Google “Episcopal life-care community San Francisco” and you’ll find a chain of these things; explore around their site and you should be able to find the one for those who did not retire as Silicon Valley millionaires. They get their own apartment and a feeling of independence, yet there are people there to help when they need it, and a couple of meals a day are served.

    If there’s any way you can wangle them in there, this would get them close to you but not on top of you. Brother will have to fend for himself.

    My father moved himself into a life-care community after my mother died. It was the biggest favor he ever did for me.

  13. The Quest says:

    I am beginning to confront these issues you write about. My mother is welcome to live with me but she lives on the other side of the world and moving her here is not a possibility at her age. My father is not welcome to live with me. He was horribly abusive during my childhood and continues to be abusive into his later years. A leopard doesn’t change its spots and moving him here would result in a crime being committed I have no doubt. So, my plan when I visit them later this year is to find out what resources are available to them and how I can agreeably move them out of their current home and into a residential care facility. If my father dies first, there is no way my mother can maintain a big house and garden or pay for their current rented home without assistance and, with me living on the other side of the planet, there’s no way I can ‘drop in’ to make sure she’s OK on a moment’s notice. Their present living arrangement is going to have to change sooner or later.

  14. Karen says:

    I’d like my dad to move in with me or a little closer (my mom has already passed).
    Down here in my area, there a lot of mother-in-law suites. Plus, there’s quite a bit of 55+ communities.

  15. And yes we’re mostly asian.

    This is how I ended up in marital counseling. I won’t let my MIL live with us. Forget it.

    My DH can be married to me or his Mom period. And I’m still married, so that’s it. She is welcome to live nearby but we are NOT paying to support them.

    Now as to my mom? She has no desire to live with us period. She will live nearby, but with us? Not if hell froze over.

    We already shell out enough as is for family. My BIL is living with us now and we are PAYING for EVERYTHING. See everything including eating out, groceries, utilities, etc. Yes, not even living with my in-laws. Why? Long story, but we pay an awful lot for everything.

    I don’t need to be shelling out more.

  16. Kami says:

    My mother had a stroke when I was just 26 and I had just finished buying and renovating my own house. I did the responsible thing and moved her in with me and she has been living with me ever since. In that time, her health has improved and I like to think it’s because she wasnt alone and wondering where her next meal was coming from and thinking of household matters. She was able to concentrate on getting better. She is now retired and getting a disability check. She will be living with me until she needs more specialized care than I can give. And it couldnt have worked out better. 🙂

  17. Amanda says:

    My grandmother is Japanese (I’m hapa) but we’re actually having the opposite issue with her. When the time comes that my grandparents can no longer “age in place” in their own home, I would like to have them live with us or live very close to us. However, they’re very concerned with not being burdens and have saved enough for their own care so they’re taking nursing home tours in an effort to find one that feels cozy yet provides memory care (my grandmother has Alzheimer’s).

    Having said that, I have no intention of caring for my mother, my father, or my in-laws if they ever find themselves in a position where they can’t care for themselves. They weren’t good parents, they haven’t taken care of their health or their finances, and they have poor personal boundaries. I’m not willing to sacrifice my own happiness (and my marital happiness) for people who have always prioritized themselves first.

    Whatever you end up doing, good luck. It’s a rough situation.

  18. TooClose says:

    I’m just starting to deal with this now. I’m in my late 20s so my parents are not elderly yet, but already who provides care is becoming an issue. My parents are divorced and both live within an hour of me. Neither have much retirement savings nor a spouse, although both have significant they do not intend to marry. My only brother is unemployed and lives on the other side of the country.

    Although my parents are not “old”, they are at a point where they are beginning to need assistance. My mother, in particular, continually needs help with everything from figuring out the internet to re-arranging her furniture. As I am the closest relative, I am often called over to help. This morning she called and told me that she scheduled minor knee surgery for a holiday weekend where I had planned to be away. I was expected to cancel my plans and come over and help out after her operation. On the one hand it is obvious that I should help my mother, but on the other hand I worry that, at 58, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to caring for my parents.

    I am not particularly close with either of may parents, and I am terrified that their demands on my time, finances and independence will rapidly increase in the next few years. I understand that in many cultures it is expected that the children care for the parents when they age. But as my parents and I are not close, it has never been in my plan to be the primary caregiver as they age. It is hard enough for me to make ends meet on my non-profit salary, and to some degree I feel my time is taken advantage of because I live closer to them than my brother. I feel terrible that I am unwilling to drop everything and care for my parents as they age. But I also recognize that my parents’ choices, such as deciding not to remarry or save for their retirements, have probably placed an unfair burden on my boyfriend and I to be both physically and financially responsible instead. Am I wrong?

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