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Coming home – or at least nearby

This week’s storyteller has chosen to be anonymous.

When’s the right time to move a parent to be close to you? Does removing some parental challenges mean introducing new ones?

My mum is a healthy lady in her early 70s. She and dad moved away from our home town some years ago, building a full and busy life in their new home. After dad died, though, mum eventually chose to move back. It’s early days and we’re still feeling our way with our new relationship, but the future looks hopeful.

Until recently, mum had been happy to make the two-hour journey from the south coast to visit her family on a regular basis. Then three years ago she was diagnosed with blephorospasm, a debilitating eye condition, which within months meant she had to give up her car and stop driving. On top of this she began to have more serious symptoms that suggested she might need more help, more quickly.

It had always been our joint long-term plan that mum would come back here to live close to us, but this was now happening probably ten years sooner than we imagined. As a family we agreed unanimously that this was now the right time for the move.

We weren’t talking about moving mum in with us. She has her own lovely new home in the area. The move was easy too – buying and selling went remarkably well.

And yet there have been definite stresses for both mother and daughter in the process. We’ve learned lessons we’d like to share with you, so that you can see the pros and cons in making your own moving decisions.

My mum and I have talked about this and together we’ve identified the areas that we found difficult, some of which are quite surprising.

Our relationship has had to change. You get in the rhythm of a long-distance relationship, so you see each other infrequently, but more intensely. Now we see each other very frequently for less time. This takes some adaptation in terms of lifestyle. With a busy job and family, I find weekdays just slipping away, and so this leaves the weekends to see mum. I am very happy to be with her, but it is a responsibility. She knows that I feel that. When Mum lived away, I didn’t feel such a deep responsibility for her happiness and wellbeing.

At the heart of our challenges is that knowledge that mum gave up a busy life, full of friends and wider family to come back home. When you are in your 70s and with an eye condition it is not that easy to go out and make new friends.

Because my life is very, very busy, I’m tempted to want the same for mum. I recognise though that different generations have a different pace of life, and I am aware that I sometimes try to put that fast pace on my mum. Perhaps I encourage her too hard to join clubs, coffee mornings etc. I think at times she has felt pressurised by me to do more than she wants to do.

Even though Mum doesn’t want to do things at my pace there are times when I know she feels lonely. It’s been ten years since my dad died, and she still misses him. The knowledge that we have taken her away from her extended family and friends weighs heavily on me.

So – would we do it again and would we do it the same?

Mum and I agree that ideally she should have moved back five years ago, when she was younger and before her current health problems. It would have been much easier to make a new life again. Or perhaps we should have done what her own mother, my grandmother, did just seven years ago, and moved back home at the stage where she had become housebound and it no longer mattered so much where she lived.

But as we all know – we don’t live in an ideal world. I feel confident that slowly mum will make a new life and we will slip into a natural rhythm. Mum still has age and health on her side, and I know this will happen.

Have you had to make a decision to move a parent closer to you or even into your home? Do you have tips to share with others contemplating such a move? Do let us know with a comment below.

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