DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from "Perturbed in N. Carolina" (July 20) describing the living arrangements of her grandmother, who has chosen to live with her daughter. The arrangement she has for $600 to $700 a month, plus a few extra items, sounds like a steal to me.
I have taken care of my grandmother ever since my mother's death 16 years ago. Even though my grandmother lives on her own, my wife and I are her means of transportation, health-care coordination, entertainment and emergency calls. This is not easy.
If "Perturbed's" family is so concerned about Grandma's welfare, then why don't they offer Grandma a vacation at their home for two weeks? I bet the aunt would love to have some time alone with her husband and daughter, and it might give "Perturbed's" parents new insight. -- BEEN THERE AND DOING IT
DEAR BEEN THERE: It might, indeed. I must say that the response I received after printing that letter has been all over the map -– and I plan to print two days' worth.
I told "Perturbed" that I didn't think this was a family matter she should be involved with, and that if her parents would like Grandma to live with them, then the father should talk to his mother and extend the offer. But the decision should be his mother's to make, and sometimes mothers feel closer to their daughters than to their sons.
Some who responded to that letter felt strongly I should have responded differently, and I'll print those letters tomorrow. Today we'll hear from respondents with living arrangements similar to those mentioned in the letter. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I applaud your advice to the granddaughter to stay out of the "where Grandma should live" conflict. Living far away, she has no idea of what goes on in her aunt's house. For that matter, the parents may not have a complete grasp of the situation, either.
When my husband's mother came to live with us, we felt guilty asking her to contribute, but we had to consider several factors. Several major, expensive projects were done to ensure her comfort. Our monthly expenses increased. So did my laundry and kitchen duties because my mother-in-law is physically incapable of sharing any household chores.
I make and serve all her meals. I also help her take showers, supervise her medical care and drive her to all of her appointments. I also must be present during her checkups to be sure she gets the facts straight, and take care of all her insurance problems. I clean her hearing aids and make sure she has the correct batteries, and handle her prescription refills. This is a full-time job for which there are no benefits, no days off and no vacation time.
My husband and I have lost our privacy and freedom, and must arrange our activities around her needs. She refuses to give us a break, such as an occasional respite weekend at an assisted-living facility. I'd like to take her to a senior center one afternoon or two a week. She refuses to do this, too.
My point is: If financial compensation helps to ease the physical and mental stress –- so be it! -- STRESSED OUT IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR ABBY: We live in a multigenerational household with my 89-year-old grandmother, who also pays rent and is extremely happy to do so. She says it makes her feel more like a contributing member of the household. She doesn't like being dependent on others. We provide all her transportation, prepare her meals, and we all eat together every evening.
This kind of living arrangement is complex, and a lot of people can't handle it. Cohabitation is about much more than money alone. Perhaps that grandma knows that money can't buy happiness, and living in a happy household is worth the money. -- ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY IN OAKLAND, FLA.