The "Roommate" Dilemma
I have an awesome apartment attached to my house. It has everything so I could essentially close the door between the two units and rent it out and the person would have everything they need (1,300 square feet including a full kitchen, bedroom, walk in closet, laundry, living room, dining room and separate entrance).
Mom's former caregiver, Carol, became like family. She is 79 and very active and healthy. She lives alone in a second story apartment in an over 55 complex. She had been looking to move closer to her daughter all along (daughter lives in my neighborhood).
So, now Mom has passed and Carol and I have negotiated her renting Mom's apartment. Win /win. She has a better living situation, we have rent coming in and the kids love her. I agreed to honor the rent that she had been paying but it is $300 less than we would have rented the apartment for. In exchange for the bargain rent, she has agreed to continue to be available to take my daughter to her orthodontist appointments, give the kids other rides as needed etc.
The dilemma: She clearly envisions that this will be a roommate situation where she is an active member of our family - the new grandma, if you will. I envisioned it to be a landlord/tenant relationship where we are neighbors and friends. I pictured the door between the units being shut and us knocking when we want to spend time together. I was picturing her living alone but joining us for an occasional meal together or a shopping trip or whatever. But mostly, living as two separate households.
She has made comments about helping me with housework (vacuuming/sweeping downstairs) and helping get dinner started for us. I subtly demurred. Too subtly because she has mentioned it again.
I like her a lot but want some space and privacy. I know I need to have a talk with her and express my feelings but don't have the words and can't find the perfect time.
And, we also need to consider that she is 79. I was an unwilling caregiver to my mother. I do like Carol a LOT more than I liked my mother but I also know what an endeavor that was. I know as she gets older, Carol will need help but I am worried that an occasional assist with this or that can eventually morph into full blown caregiving.
Her daughter and I know each other professionally and we are friendly. Her main problem with her mother is getting her mother to back off and not do everything for her kids. You know, letting them clean up after themselves, do their own laundry etc. I can see that.
It is too late to back out now. Carol has already figured out where all of her furniture is going. I just need to find a way to define the relationship.