“Questions and Answers,” Ensign, Dec. 2004, 42
I am an elderly woman, and due to my fragile health, I recently came to live with my daughter and her family. It has been difficult to leave behind my friends, my home, and especially my independence. I know it hasn’t been easy for my daughter’s family either. What can we do to make the change easier for all of us?
When at age 82 I moved in with my daughter and her husband, I made a conscious decision that I would not mourn, that I would accept the decision cheerfully, and that I would look forward to new adventures.
I discovered that many of my “precious things” were just stuff, and as I unloaded them, I felt a freedom that was wonderful. I sold my home and thought of all the freedom from upkeep and repairs. A burden was lifted off my shoulders.
I now keep busy by writing letters and working on my autobiography. I sort and place my photographs in albums. I go for walks. I subscribe to several good magazines. I invite friends to drop by. I teach the Beehives in the Young Women organization, and my daughter and I are visiting teaching companions.
It is important for me to feel useful around the house. I help make lunch and prepare dinner most evenings. Other tasks I help with include doing the laundry, folding clothes, watering houseplants, and dusting furniture.
Dorothy L. Clark, Rainier Ward, Rainier Oregon Stake
One advantage to growing older is that your pool of people to love grows larger. Keep in touch with the old friends you left behind by writing letters, making phone calls, and planning visits. Make new friends in your daughter’s neighborhood. If there is a senior citizens’ center nearby, take advantage of it. However, do not limit yourself to the elderly. Many young people find great satisfaction in associating with those who are the age of their grandparents and great-grandparents.
Another advantage to aging is that you continue to amass memories to cherish. Your home you left behind is probably not the first one you have moved from. Each home from your past can become a memory to hold dear.
Colleen Young Staker, Jordan North Fourth Ward, Salt Lake Jordan North Stake
We cared for my mother-in-law for almost a year before her death. These are the things I appreciated most about her: She was never bossy or demanding with our children or me. With five children there, our home got noisy and crazy sometimes, but she was slow to correct or complain. She left the disciplining of the children to me or my husband. Instead, she always encouraged them or helped them with their homework. She would ask them about their day and listen intently as they talked. She was a peacemaker and could help our young boys change the subject and forget their quarrels.
I loved the talks we had when she and I were home alone during the day. And she knew just when to insist on buying pizza for dinner! Because of her gracious and loving ways, it was a joy to have her in our home.
Debra Thiemann, Pocatello Eighth Branch, Pocatello Idaho West Stake
I am living with my oldest daughter and her husband. When she asked me to live with them, the first thing I decided was that in no way would I come between them. For example, they’ve always sat by each other in their car. When I go somewhere with them, they want me to sit in the front seat. Though it would be easier to get into the front, I stubbornly say, “No, I’d rather sit in the back,” and I’m in before they know it. They’re both together in the front.
I know they need time together for private conversations. They both work full-time and have various activities, so they come and go at different times. When they’re both home, I make myself scarce for the next 30 or 40 minutes.
Many times they go out to dinner or a show and invite me to go with them. Occasionally I do, but more often I excuse myself so they can have a real date together. All married couples need private time together.
They have managed to live without my help for years; hence I learned early on to never question their decisions or give suggestions unless the subject involves me or they request my help. I was given a mouth that closes and ears that don’t. So I just listen and observe. It’s surprising what I can learn.
Helen L. Baird, Mount Vernon Ward, Mount Vernon Virginia Stake
When my husband’s parents moved into our home, several factors made the transition easier for us, including the following:
His parents never acted as though we owed them anything. They received even the smallest favors with gratitude, despite the awkwardness they may have felt in accepting them. Their gratitude made it much easier for us to give.
Our ward leaders gave our family and my in-laws separate visiting and home teachers, and they treated us as separate households. They did not assume that, having met me or my husband, they now knew the entire family. The bishop also extended callings that my in-laws could fulfill despite their health limitations.
Emily Milner, Lindon 14th Ward, Lindon Utah West Stake
When things get tense, ask yourself these questions: How important is this issue in the grand scheme of things? Is it going to affect my eternal progression? When you get frustrated, think of the special moments you spend listening to your grandchildren tell of their day at school, or of the picnics you have with a toddler on your bed, or of those rare occasions when you get to have heart-to-heart talks with your daughter. Those moments can make it all worthwhile and are opportunities you may not have shared had you not been living in the same home.
Rashona Carraway, Pelican Creek Ward, North Las Vegas Nevada Stake
An elderly parent can do many things to make the transition into a new living situation easier. For example, you might make the following decisions ahead of time:
Decide if you’ll be eating with the family or cooking on your own. Will you be buying your own groceries or will the family be providing them?
Who will be the responsible driver? If you have a car but don’t want to drive, are you willing to share it—perhaps in return for some chauffeuring? Remember that a driver may not be available at all times. Be mindful of schedules and get rides where appropriate.
Consider paying a predetermined monthly amount to help cover the family’s increased utility bills, telephone charges, groceries, gas, and so on.
Eugenia S. Hancock, Plymouth Ward, Westland Michigan Stake
Don’t worry about the burden you think you will cause; realize instead what you can contribute to the family. We learned much about Grandpa’s youth and early life as we visited with him and encouraged him to tape-record stories of his life that I later transcribed for the family. He shared his testimony with us and even with the nurses and health aides who came to care for him. He would occasionally give us advice and counsel from his experience and wisdom. And he gave us an opportunity to serve and learn constant love.
Try to be a part of the family and not just a boarder in the house. If your health permits, participate in family home evening, family meals, and family prayer, and attend church with your family.
Be willing to accept service. You served your children as they were growing up; now it is their turn to serve you. Give them that opportunity.
Scherelyn Jensen, Rolling Valley Ward, Annandale Virginia Stake
When I was about 10 years old, my grandmother came to live with our family. I loved my grandmother, and my life was enriched in many ways by the time we spent together. However, much pain and confusion could have been avoided if our parents had brought us children together in a family council ahead of time to talk about what would be happening.
Before the elderly loved one moves in, give all family members an opportunity to share their feelings without criticism, and encourage them to contribute to a plan for helping the loved one feel welcome. This is a wonderful time to teach about family responsibility in a positive way and to help each generation learn to value the blessings of others.
Lynda Bennett, Milton-Freewater Ward, Walla Walla Washington Stake
My husband and I had the privilege of caring for my mother a few years ago. Here are several suggestions based on our experience:
Immediately make appointments with medical professionals to establish necessary contacts. Doctors seldom accept new patients in emergency situations.
Contact community agencies or offices on aging to learn what support resources are available in your area. We arranged for my mother to stay in a nice adult day care facility. In many areas there are also in-home services for those with special needs. This will take some investigating to find resources you are comfortable with.
Find out about group homes and assisted living residences, which often accept seniors temporarily for respite care when the caregiver has to go out of town or otherwise needs this service. Gathering this information will also help you become familiar with alternative living situations should that become necessary in the future.
Make sure that all end-of-life plans are in order, such as wills or trusts, living wills, instructions regarding location of important documents, and so on.
Heather Schoeny, Savage Mill Ward, Columbia Maryland Stake
If the parent is unable to leave the home, arrange to have the sacrament brought to him or her.
If possible, take your parent with you to Church events or other activities. Even a trip to the drugstore can add excitement to life. I took my father on at least one outing every day as long as he was able.
If other relatives live nearby, suggest that they invite the elderly person to instruct them or their children in some areas of expertise. This helps the elderly person know he or she is of worth.
Judith LaMontagne, South Whidbey Island Ward, Everett Washington Stake
Time for self should be a priority, even if in small amounts. Regular dates with a spouse are essential, especially temple trips. Understand that the senior family member may strongly discourage your absence, possibly due to fear. But caretakers will be happier and better able to fulfill their responsibilities if they have consistent renewal time.
Andrea Walter, Chardon Branch, Kirtland Ohio Stake