Q: I am 86 years old and my husband is 90. We live on our own and care for ourselves. Our problem is that our daughter, who is 49, is badgering us to go into a hostel. She's our only child, and we're deeply hurt by her attitude, which borders on abusive. We're unable to have a rational conversation with her.
A: Conflict within a family is always distressing, and when it occurs with an only child, it’s even more so. It seems your ability to communicate has broken down and that a decision that needs to be made calmly and rationally and with tact and love, has deteriorated into an occasion for abusive behaviour.
To leave a home is a hard thing. It is one of the transitions of life that can cause much heartache and yet it has to be negotiated at some time or other.
It would seem the issue at hand, which is a practical one, has become muddied with a lot of emotion.
You may do well to find a mediator—someone who can build a bridge—perhaps another family member or friend, whom you trust to be impartial, a social worker or your church minister, who isn’t emotionally involved.
It also may be useful to look at the reasons why your daughter wants you to give up your home. Is your home safe, not only from intruders, but also in terms of its practicality, such as stairs that have to be negotiated or loose rugs that might make you trip and fall? And, if one of you were to fall, is there a neighbour nearby to help you? Are you able to prepare the kinds of meals you both need? Do either one of you have a medical condition that might need monitoring, such as diabetes?
I’m not siding with your daughter, but I do believe that when you and your husband consider all the relevant factors you may understand her concern. However, her concern would never make it right for her to shout at you or your husband.
You have the right to make up your own mind on this issue and no-one, not even an only child, can force you to do something you do not want to do, especially if you are not endangering yourselves or others. If you find you are unable to discuss your daughter’s behaviour with her, you may want to discuss this issue via the mediator, or take even more drastic action. I cannot prescribe what that might be, but I can assure you that you don’t have to endure such treatment. Everyone is entitled to dignity and respect, and even more so when they’re older.