Sage Advice: Widower Wants Ex-Wife to Be His Caretaker

August 8th, 2018

But what will the children think!?


Dear Amy: I am an 85-year-old widower. My wife died three months ago.

I live with a “live-in” assistant who provides meals and general assistance to me. This person also has a job in real estate. I have two grown children from a previous marriage, and three adult stepchildren from my deceased wife.

Now, I want to ask my ex-wife to move in with me to provide 24/7 care.

She is 82, and is in favor of moving in with me. We’ve been divorced for 36 years. The children are split: my two agree with this idea, and the three stepchildren disagree. The disagreement comes from concern over too short a period for bereavement, and also distribution of an inheritance after my passing.

They also think that my ex-wife is too old to provide effective caregiving.

Is there a “normal” grieving period? I am torn between my original family and my family through marriage.

Is a compromise possible?

– Searching

Dear Searching: The grieving process is different for everyone, but everything about your situation seems accelerated. This could be because you are panicking, or simply feel like you don’t have a lot of time to spend figuring out this next phase of your life. Your experience witnessing your late wife’s needs and caregiving requirements could be influencing you now.

Please understand that, no matter what you are going through (grief or no), your late wife’s children are grieving. Treat them with understanding and compassion. But you must ultimately do what you believe is best for you.

If there are questions about inheritance, review your affairs and – if you want to – perhaps make arrangements to give your stepchildren their inheritance, or a share from their late-mother’s estate, now.

My main question is why an 82-year-old woman would be eager to devote her remaining golden years to providing “24/7” care for her ex-husband? But your ex-wife is an adult, and presuming she is of sound mind, she should also do what she wants to do.

Some questions are: Will she be compensated for the care she is providing? What will you do when/if she gets sick and can’t provide the care you want/require/expect?

You, she and your children should think this through very carefully and make sure that her rights and needs are acknowledged and protected, in writing.

A social worker with expertise in dealing with elder issues could help you to mediate the various constituencies, and provide you with additional resources.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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