Question: I've made the decision to become my Grandmother's caretaker, but am not sure if it's the smartest thing to do. It's beneficial to both of us because I am currently sleeping in my car. I would gain a roof over my head and free food. However, I do have a job and, with time, I can save enough to move out. If I am accepted as her caretaker (she lives in government housing, and I've applied to become her caretaker), I have to leave my job because the drive wouldn't be practical from where she lives. She's 81, but not completely incapable of taking care of herself. All she really needs help with is running errands, occasional house cleaning, and cooking food (which I actually don't know how to do, but she's teaching me).
I love my Grandma and I want to be there for her, but I'm afraid that if we're constantly around each other, we may start getting on each other's nerves—enough to ruin our good relationship. I've already been getting rather annoyed with her. For the last month, I've been staying at her place on the weekends, and it seems every time she has something to complain about. I understand that to her I'm an outlet, but it gets really frustrating when she wants thing 'just so', but when I strive to meet her requirements she flips it around and wants the opposite all of the sudden. Little complaints pile up until she's making a fuss all day.
All that aside, I feel that, being 22, I might start feeling robbed of my youth. I know that sounds horrible, it probably is. I've never lived on my own, and this last year in particular I was really looking forward to it. I just don't want to start resenting my grandmother, when she really just needed someone to take care of her. Should I put aside the worry of straining our good relationship and be more concerned about my grandmother's well being, or should I put my attention towards developing my own independence?
Dr. Amy: I think you might find it helpful to write down your options and each options pros and cons. One option is to move in. Another is to continue to help her on the weekends—running errands, cleaning, and cooking for the week. Is there anyone else in your family or circle of friends who could also help with this? What government programs exist in your area? Can she get a caregiver to come in a couple of times a week to help? There are three options. Are there others? Beside each option, write down all of the advantages (both for you and your grandmother) and all of the disadvantages. Consider all angles. If you move in, can you find work in your new neighbourhood, or can you go to school so eventually you would earn more money?
You will have to do a little research to find out what kind of supports might be available in terms of home care. You can call your local Area Agency on Aging for this. I see you are in California. Here is the link for more information: www.aging.ca.gov/ProgramsProviders/AAA/AAA_listing.asp
As you say, your grandmother really just needs help with errands, housekeeping and cooking, so it doesn't sound like she needs a live-in caregiver at this point. But once you have more fully explored what each of your options means to you both, you will be able to make the right decision. I encourage you to share your analysis with your grandmother and talk to her about her needs, your needs, and how—if you were to move in—you could adjust to each other to make it work. You may be surprised that your grandmother also has ideas that you have not thought of. Good luck!
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