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Ups and downs of moving mum in

This week’s storyteller has chosen to be anonymous.

One of our readers tells us how her mum moved from Zimbabwe to live in the family home in the UK at the age of seventy-six. Seven years on, she talks about why it happened and how well it’s working. And we asked her husband what he thought too!

Mum and dad met in Zimbabwe, and initially settled into a life of farming before spending some years in Zambia. We children were born and bred in Africa. In time we moved away, but mum and dad stayed on.

After dad died mum felt it would be best to move. The heat had become difficult to manage, the economy was failing with inflation rising, and she was uncomfortable about living alone in a less secure environment.

We all agreed that moving to the UK would be the best option. She’d been to visit over the years and she felt that she would be happy here.

Although I lived in Saudi Arabia with my family at the time, we owned a house in the UK where my sister and her family were living. Mum moved in with them until we returned to take their place.

Mum was seventy-six when she came to live in the UK. That was seven years ago, and we have settled into a pattern that works reasonably well.

Our house is not huge and although accommodation and space in the house is tight, Mum has her own bedroom with a bathroom and television. She shares the rest of our house with my husband, our university student son and our daughter who is completing her A-levels at school.

It’s good for mum to have her privacy and a space she can call her own, though I am conscious that she must not become too isolated and will suggest we watch a film together or take her out for a bite to eat, and we usually eat dinner together.

Mum fits in with our routine. She helps with chores – unloading the dishwasher, putting washing in, letting the dog out. However, limitations have become more obvious as she ages and now she is less mobile.

I’m glad that mum is socially active and has a full programme of activities including coffee mornings, lunches and a weekly exercise class. We live two miles from the nearest bus stop along a road with no paths, but driving initially ensured she enjoyed her independence. Now that she no longer drives, she’s taken full advantage of a local dial-a-ride service. She uses the Red Cross facility to take her to doctor and dentist appointments.

Although mum has been here for the last seven years, our children, who are seventeen and nineteen, didn’t really know her when they were very young. They haven’t built the relationship with their grandmother that many children enjoy, yet they accept her presence.

As mum becomes older and less mobile I worry about her care. I know I would not be able to lift her should she fall. I guess there are adaptations we could make to our home to help, but I haven’t investigated those yet. In time it would be good to cultivate a relationship with a trustworthy carer to help with her and additionally the house and dog should we go away for a few nights.

We wanted to know what husband John thought about the living arrangements. It must be harder when it’s not your own parent?

Looking after my mother-in-law is absolutely the right thing to do. We agree on this and if we want to leave one legacy for our children, it’s the understanding that you look after your parents.

That’s not to say it isn’t hard sometimes though. My wife and I met in Hong Kong and we both enjoy travelling. Apart from odd weekends it’s difficult to get away, and we do miss it. And now that I’m retired we notice the lack of space more.

My wife’s mother certainly tries to make living together as easy as possible. She understands that we need time on our own sometimes. And we’re available to help her when needed – ferrying her around when she can’t get transport for example.

Would I do it again? If we were making the decision again, I would go for a retirement flat as the best choice, but they’re expensive and hard to find. Would I want to move in with my children when the time comes and I need help? No, probably not!

Have you moved a parent in with you? Do you recognise some of these issues or have you faced other challenges? Please give our readers the benefit of your tips in the comments below.

Are you worried about your parent being lonely, even if they’re living close at hand? Have a look at our Loneliness Guide for tips on keeping them involved in the world outside.

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