We Take In My Elderly Father In Law

By Mindy • May 21, 2021

My story is pretty simple and it’s still unfolding. My in-laws are in their eighties and facing many health problems. They live about 50 minutes away from us. My father in law has mild dementia and Parkinson’s which is partially controlled through medication. Recently after an incident with the ancient plumbing at their house they were left without a working downstairs bathroom and my father in law came to live with us. He has stayed with us before for a few days to give my mother in law a break. The last time was for two weeks and a half. This time it’s been a month and counting. When we bought our house a couple summers ago we made sure to get one with an extra bedroom so we would have this as a possibility.

The very first time was several years ago. My husband had suggested it and I was leery since I felt we did not have the space or the time to devote to caregiving. But eventually he came for about three days, and I was really surprised to discover how much I enjoyed having him with us. His frailty made us all more gentle and in spite of his dementia we had good, interesting conversations together. I got to see a new side of my husband and our teenage daughter and her Papaw were nice to watch together, too. It changed our family dynamic in really healthy ways. In spite of the extra work, I felt uplifted and needed. Finally someone who was not in too much of a hurry to sit and talk and simple, friendly ways. I could be gentle and playful and kind.

I feel that my father in law’s presence helps us be more of who we were meant to be. I don’t know how long we’ll be able to manage having him with us as his condition progresses, but we’re committed to making it work as long as we’re able. We are fortunate that our work situations allow someone to be home with him around the clock.

Recently we bought him a used Airdyne off of Craigslist. This is a very simple exercise bike that works the arms and legs, and he used to use one a lot many years ago. He has been pretty physically active in his lifetime, working out at the gym well into his seventies until circumstances of life and health kept him from going in more recent years. When we went to see if the bike would still work for him now, in his condition, he clambered up carefully, pedaled for five minutes, got down and told the seller “We’ll take it.”

And after we got it into the home the next day and he climbed up once again, the look of happiness on his face as he started to pedal just filled my being with joy.

If anyone has the chance to bring an elderly parent into their home, I encourage you to give it a try. It might work out better than you expected!

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