Last week, my 81 year old father fell and landed himself in the hospital. He's fine, just bruised up and sore. But it brought up an issue that pesters our marriage constantly. Should we have my father move in with us?
I am a big believer that as you become an adult, and your parents age, your roles reverse. In other words, towards the end of their lives, you are their parent. You meet their needs the way they did for so much of your life. In my mind, it is just the right thing to do. Plus, it's how I would want to be treated when I am old.
But there are many, many issues that come with having your aging parent moving in with you. And not to keep writing marriage Monday posts that have lists, but it's a lot to take in. Here's what I've brainstormed so far, starting with the cons.
1. The first and most obvious one is lack of privacy. Let's face it: A.P. and I fight. I'm not sure I want to have my dad there for those kinds of conversations. Let's also face it: A.P. and I have sex. I'm not sure I want my dad to accidentally hear anything. Not that we're screaming at the top of our lungs or anything, we have neighbors after all, but you know what I mean. No more walking around half naked or A.P. walking around in his underwear (of which he is a fan, aren't all men, really?). That's a lot of change to our normal lives. It's a lot to take in, and I don't want A.P. to feel like he's walking on eggshells in his own home.
2. Having to take care of someone completely kind of blows my mind. I honestly don't know how we would do it. After all, I work 60-70 hours per week, though I've been working hard on getting that number down (successfully!). Still, I work a lot, and I won't be home to watch him 24/7. So how much help it will really be is hard to say, though it would definitely be an improvement. Plus, it's not like having a kid. After all, kids don't have pensions and complicated finances to deal with. We would have to deal with all of that, as well as doctor's visits and chauffeuring him around. That's a lot more work than a baby requires. Plus, my dad is a stubborn, old man. Not exactly the kind of baby I want to be dealing with at age 30.
3. Money. Right now, A.P. and I make the most money out of everyone in my family. But we do not have a combined income as I see it. So I feel like my father would become my financial burden. And I already have a load of student debt, which is a pretty heavy burden to bear. I know my dad would be able to cover some costs, but let's face it. If he lives with us, he becomes our problem financially. We'd use more electricity. We'd have to buy more food. We'd use more gas driving him places. Those are not bills I'm going to give to my father, you know? "Ummm, Dad? We had to drive you to three doctor's appointments this week. That's $20.16 in gas. Pay me by the end of the week." Yeah...I don't think so.
Still, there are also some positives to this whole thing, too.
1. Spending time with my father. I'm an anomaly in my family. Public school educated (my siblings were all Catholic schoolkids), and the child of a divorce. My siblings were almost out of the house when my parents were divorcing, but I was still a young kid. So, I didn't grow up living with my dad. Getting to spend that kind of time with him now seems, in some ways, like a gift. Plus, when we have kids in a few years, they will get to spend time with their grandfather. That's pretty invaluable.
2. With us, he'd flourish, not fail. He's 81, but he's in relatively good health. Most of his health problems are ones that he created. With us, I could try to reverse some of that. My dad's mind is fading because he's alone all the time and doesn't talk to anyone or do anything. Living with us, he'd be able to converse with people, and get out of the house more. This would also help his ability to walk, which he has a hard time doing. He needs to get more exercise. He could do that with us.
3. I could get his life together. Two of my brothers have predominantly taken care of my dad for the past 15 years. They haven't really done a great job. His finances are a mess. His health isn't great, and he just needs better care. They did a lot, but we could do what needs to be done now. We're smart, and capable and way more together. We could easily make that happen.
The thing is, having my dad live with us will most definitely affect my marriage. Our marriage is stable now, but we're still newbies. We're still learning, and I'm not sure having my dad in our relationship will help. I worry it will hurt. It seems like an unfair thing to ask of A.P., too. I worry it will distance us. I worry it will bring a lot of stress to our relationship. The point is, I worry.
Nevertheless, the decision will have to be made soon. It's not one we can make right now. We still live in a tiny, 1-bedroom apartment...on the 3rd floor. There's no way my dad can live with us in our current state. But as I've said before, our goal is to buy a home some time this year or next. So we can definitely factor more space for my dad into our decision making when looking for a new place. The question remains: will we?
Have you had to deal with aging parents in your marriage? How did you proceed?