The discussions taking place in our community, around the prospect of having another facility built for seniors and the need for affordable housing has prompted me to share our story. It is my hope that in so doing, it may give people another option to consider.
My husband Wayne and I both worked for many years in a long term care facility here in Summerland. While the care provided to the residents was excellent for the most part, we both wished for something more for our own parents, when the time would come for them to be looked after.
With that thought in mind, I had discussed with my folks, the idea of purchasing a home that we could share. At the time, they were renting a townhouse in Penticton and since my dad was now retired, they were excited at the prospect of moving back to their home town of Summerland.
We found the perfect place, a modest house that was situated on land that used to belong to my grandfather. We renovated the ground floor level of the home into a private suite for my parents. That was 20 years ago now and it has worked out beautifully.
The advantages for us were several. Not only did we have financial help with our mortgage, but we had built in caretakers to help with maintaining the yard and taking care of the place and our pets while we were at work or at play.
The advantages for my parents has come about now, when they have health challenges, can no longer drive and need some help with daily living. Since we are now both retired also, we are free to assist them.
We also had the privilege of caring for my husband’s mother the last two years of her life. She was very resistive to the idea of moving in with her “kids,” believing that no two women could live in the same house together. We set up our spare room for her and she came to stay with us after a health scare and after two weeks decided to stay and often said that she wished she had come sooner. She passed away peacefully in her bed, with her family and little dog beside her. Seeing her take her final breath, knowing we had done all that we could to care for her, was one of the most transformational moments of my life.
I realize that our lifestyle is not for everyone. It does not come without its challenges either. It takes a great deal of communication and co-operation to live so closely together with family. The role reversal that comes with adult children caring for their parents is the biggest obstacle to overcome. It is a huge adjustment for all concerned and requires extra love and patience. It also requires the acceptance that things will not always go smoothly and perfectly. Everyone just does the best they can from day to day.
I can honestly say though, that it has been a great honour to give back to our parents some of what they have done for us, as our life givers. There has been no greater reward in my life than to hear my dad express his gratitude for bringing them to this home they love, or to be able to tuck my mom into bed at night, as she did me, all through my childhood.
I would encourage anyone who may be considering taking care of their own in this way and who may be in a position to do so, to go ahead unafraid.
It may be one solution to help solve not only the housing crisis, but also the need of care for our seniors.
Carla McLeod is was born and raised in Summerland.