Q. My mother needs to be in a nursing home, but my wife thinks she should live with us. We are in our 50’s and still working out of necessity to pay college tuition for our two children. If my mother lives with us, we will pay for nursing care during the day since she has dementia, and we will take care of her at night. I think a nursing home is the best solution. What is your opinion?
A. You are a part of the “sandwich generation,” a term used to describe those in mid-life who are sandwiched between caring for their elderly parents and caring for their own children. This is not an easy period of life to navigate. Many people attempt to take care of an elderly parent at home and find that it robs them of their energy, family time and finances.
Since your mother’s dementia has advanced to the stage where she needs constant monitoring, you should seriously consider a nursing home for her. Although there are many excellent home health aides, they will not always be adequate. What happens when one calls in sick, but both of you must go to work? What happens if they are not properly trained to monitor your mother’s condition?
Many people have struggled with the decision to place a parent in a nursing home only to discover that the parent enjoys the companionship and activities that they find there. Additionally, her friends who may hesitate to visit her at your home, are more likely to drop in at a nursing facility.
Go to each nursing home in your area. Ask questions of staff and family members who have someone there. Find the best one even if it means you have to travel further to see her. The nursing home may not be an ideal solution, but as a practical matter, it may be the best one based on your family situation.
Q. My husband and I are both in our mid-70’s, and he’s still working full-time even though we don’t need the money. I want him to retire so we can travel and spend more time with the grandkids. I’m becoming annoyed. Shouldn’t he retire?
A. The age at which people retire depends on their field of work and their mental and physical health. Personality characteristics, such as conscientiousness and perseverance, allow older workers to contribute valuable work for a longer time. If your husband is in a job that he enjoys, he probably continues to find the work invigorating.
Research studies indicate that many older people experience a “renaissance” of creative energy during their 60’s and 70’s. Perhaps this revitalization is because they no longer have to worry about advancement, competition or office politics. Knowing that he can retire at any time has probably given your husband a sense of freedom and control in his workplace.
Your husband obviously enjoys his job, but he may fear retirement. He may have noticed that some of his retired friends feel they have lost their purpose. He may feel that if he quits working he is no longer a contributing member of society.
Since you want to spend more time with your husband, you need to have a serious discussion with him. Perhaps he can work fewer hours or limit his work to certain days each week. Since money is not an issue, he may pursue a part-time position. He needs to understand that it is important to you to travel and to spend time with your grandchildren. You need to understand that he needs to work in some capacity. If necessary, meet with a mental health professional or a trusted adviser to work out a compromise.
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Nancy Ryburn holds a doctorate degree in psychology from Yeshiva University in New York City where she maintained a private practice. She now teaches psychology at Southeast Arkansas College. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The questions will not be answered personally, but could appear in a future column. There will be no identifying information and all e-mails remain confidential.