Learning the value of extended family

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Linda Schiller-Hanna, Ohio

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been with us since July. Mom is 92, uses a walker, and is mentally sharp. My sister-in-law is in her 50s, overweight, has bad knees, and rheumatoid arthritis. Due to difficulties in our finances, and the “death” of their old single wide mobile home, we all became one BIG FAMILY.

It’s been a huge adjustment. Because I work from home as a counselor, with the most fluid work schedule, it has fallen on me to do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and a majority of the caregiving. Even though my sister-in-law works full time, she can’t maneuver the steps up to our kitchen where cooking and clean up happens, so I do it all.

In many ways they are both good people, accommodating and uncomplaining. Because they moved in so suddenly, we're having to build a lower level bathroom. Bit by bit, its coming to life . . . now finishing the shower. The stress of fixing up the house quickly at our expense at the same time we've had our own financial challenges has made it hard for us to have “quality time” away. We lost much of our boating time to their needs, and haven’t been able to afford many nice dinners out, or a weekend get away.

Every time I leave the house, I worry that Mom may fall and we've not fully solved the alarm system. So it goes. I guess stress is common in this era. When she first moved in, Mom joked (watching carefully for my reaction) . . . “I’ll probably live another 10 years . . . and I rejoined: “I hope you do! . . .”

I am torn between wanting to give her the best care . . . and feeling exhausted from the constant needs. I've lost a lot of “Me Time.” Many friends have complained I'm not available for the little chats we enjoyed in the past. I can't do it all! My husband works long hours and commutes. He is helping a bit more lately. He is also working hard to build the shower. We can't afford to hire to have it done.

ON the positive note, I had a difficult time with my own mother. My husband’s mother has been very good to me and I am getting many of the unfinished “child's love from mother” filled at this late date. I see the value of her being here. My sister-in-law is also a nice ally when I get frustrated with my hubby.

I am learning the value of extended family.

Progression of Care: