Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Is she selfish to seek reimbursement for moving in with her elderly mother?

Carolyn Hax on

Dear Carolyn:

My mom is still sharp as ever mentally but has become frail enough physically that she sat down with me and my two brothers and told us she no longer thinks she can handle living alone.

She asked us all about living with us, and my brothers -- both married -- said it wouldn't be feasible. I -- single -- said it might be possible and we discussed it more, just the two of us. We agreed I would move in with my mom, she would pay expenses like bills and groceries, and she would leave me the house in her will.

She told my brothers and they both said I'm taking advantage of her, and they should each get one-third of the house when she dies. My mom thinks they're right, wants me to pay half the bills and wants to leave the house to each of us equally.

I don't want to move if I'm not going to have the security of some money saved up and a home to live in when she dies. When I said I no longer wanted to move in with her after she changed the terms of our agreement, my brothers both said I was being selfish. Am I? Is there a fair way for us to do this?

-- Move in With Mom?

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They want none of the caregiving but all of the money, and call you selfish. Project much, brothers?

I'll say upfront that what you're offering to do isn't just a job and money isn't its only possible compensation. Caregiving is work, of course, but -- if you and your mom get along well or are both committed to getting along better -- this time with your mother can be a priceless opportunity to give back to her, get closer to her, know her differently, hear her stories.

Your interest in securing your future is reasonable, though, because you're uprooting and signing on for a heavy, open-ended responsibility -- emotional, physical, financial. Imagine, for example, if your mom develops dementia and turns on you.

So: Do not let your brothers gaslight you out of documented compensation for your doing this important work for your family.


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