Advice on Feeling Guilty for a Parent's Move

By Fran Marmor | November 9th, 2016

If I send my mother to assisted living, am I the world’s worst daughter?

DEAR FRAN, I think I’m either going to be the unhappiest person on the planet – or the guiltiest. My mother is 85 years old and had been living with my aunt since my father died 15 years ago. My aunt recently died, and there is no way my mother can live alone. My mother and I have always gotten along, especially when we didn’t live together. She can be critical and judgmental, although she’s gotten a bit better with age. My husband tolerates her because he loves me. My brother is in the military and so the choices for my mother are assisted living or my house. She calls assisted living “a nursing home, a place to wait to die.” She really wants to live with my husband and me. Part of me wants to try it, but a bigger part of me doesn’t. I know if I insist she go into assisted living, I will feel like the world’s worst daughter. If I let her live with us, I may want to go to assisted living myself! What do I do? – Emma

DEAR EMMA, You are not the world’s worst daughter. You love your mother and want to be careful how you handle this transition. Sometimes it works for an elderly parent to live with their adult children. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is rare. It seems to work best when there are also young children in the house. Somehow, multigenerational homes seem to work best when there is a balance between young and old. Children often love living with their grandparents, and the other adults in the home are already in caretaking mode in some way with their own children. I understand that your mother is asking to live with you now. She is probably feeling vulnerable because her sister died. She is also scared of the move, which is also common with older people for whom change is very difficult. Often when elderly parents move in with their children, they feel like a burden and soon realize it wasn’t the best arrangement for them, either. I imagine you and your husband are at a stage in your life where freedom is important. You and your brother can partner to help find your mother the best place for her. Not having her live with you does not mean that you don’t love her. Perhaps you can help her understand that. If your mother can tour an assisted living facility, she will probably be less fearful, especially if it can be near where you live. There are usually counselors at the facilities to help her with the transition. Assisted living facilities can be a fantastic way to have an elderly person retain a sense of community and stay active. Families do take care of each other, but there are many ways to do that. – Fran

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