By Elizabeth SheanWhen Mom and I moved from Houston to Albuquerque earlier this year, we downsized considerably. Our former home was two stories tall and boasted 1,000 more square feet of living space than we have now, in our single-level house. I thought we could adapt to these relatively cramped quarters. But it hasn’t been going too well.My home office is situated in what was originally the home’s master bedroom suite. It is a large, bright space with sliding glass doors that open onto our beautiful backyard terrace. It’s a very peaceful place for me to do my work, especially when I have care help to preoccupy Mom.But there are also a lot of times when Mom is a distraction. She’ll come trundling down the hall to interrupt me with questions like “Are you planning to eat lunch?” or she’ll have the TV on in the living room—an incessant racket I find difficult to tune out. These conditions do not contribute to my ability to be productive.By the same token, Mom is squashed into a tiny, dark bedroom with one small window. Her queen-size bed occupies most of the space, and I worry constantly that she will catch her toe in the bedspread and trip just trying to navigate the narrow, harrowing pathway from her door to the bedroom closet.As well, in an effort to provide me with “alone time” each night, Mom tries to watch TV while propped up in her bed. It looks hideously uncomfortable, which makes me feel bad. Indeed she even admitted how unpleasant her bedroom environment is the other day.Ah, the other day. The day that culminated in Mom and I getting into serious conflict, exchanging harsh words and crying because we simply have reached a breaking point by living too much on top of each other.These arguments between Mom and me, while painful, can yield valuable information, however, and such was the case this time. I realized neither Mom nor I are getting our needs met in this current living arrangement.Mom needs independence and comfort. I need solitude and privacy. Based on the situation I’ve described, I think you can see the problem here.But how to solve it? I cannot manufacture more space inside this house. It is not Dr. Who’s Tardis.I talked things over with my sister because sometimes, to use a cliché, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. And she had a brilliant idea: move my office out of the house.Over the course of my eight-year career as a writer, I have always worked from home. But as soon as my sister said those words I could see it was the perfect solution to my home situation.And so, in a couple of weeks I will be moving into a lovely office suite I rented a few days ago. There, I will have 4 to 6 hours of blissful solitude and privacy every weekday. I’ll be able to focus on my work fully and be more productive.Mom’s bedroom will move into the original master suite. She’ll have plenty of room to move around. She can even get a small recliner so she can sit comfortably in the evenings to read a book or watch TV. She’ll have a bright, inviting space with a view of the peaceful backyard.
Will less togetherness enable us to live more harmoniously? Only time will tell. But I’m hopeful this radical change will enable both of us to get our needs met better so that the conflict becomes a thing of the past.By the way, not only is my office moving, but so is this blog. You can continue to follow our saga over at the
Strength for the Caregiver blog on CaregiverStress.com, beginning next month. I hope to see you there!
It's true that sometimes too much togetherness can be suffocating for the both of you, especially when you're both used to years of doing things your own way. If your elderly family member is physically and mentally able to live alone - or at least separately - it might be an idea to install a personal alarm to ensure their independence but you can rest easy in the knowledge that help is only a click of a button away if they ever need it.
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