Nanna – and the family home

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Columnist Peter Leith continues his Aspects of Ageing series of true short stories with this poignant telling of ‘what’s best for Nanna’.


Five decades earlier, she and her shearers’ cook husband had, quite literally, built their own home in a working class, inner suburb of the large city.

The house had been built in fits and starts when he returned from weeks, or months, of working on a shearing contract or when the arrival of a new baby necessitated further extensions.

A devout couple, they had six children, three of each kind, and the house was both being built and extended at the same time.

Despite its constantly evolving design, the finished house was both visually pleasing and a very effective family home, and all six children had learnt a lot about living and working together.

As the children left home, they started to worry about mum and dad “living on their own in that big house”. With the very best of loving good intentions, they completely failed to realise that, with their children gone, the family home that they themselves had built was a critical and essential part of their parents’ lives.

The lifetime of hard, manual work had taken its toll on the health of Nanna’s husband and it was not many years before he died and Nanna was left alone in the old family home.

With the best of intentions, the sons and daughters alike, and their spouses, urged her to move into some place where she could be ‘looked after’ or at least, downsize to a smaller, easier-to- care-for home.

With the best of intentions, all of them failed to realise that the home she had helped build and lived in most of her life was her life support mechanism.

Finally, they persuaded her to let them move her into a very comfortable, even luxurious, aged care home where they could “visit more often”.

The families even clubbed together to buy her a smartphone so that they could all keep in touch with her more easily.

As she often did, she smiled gently and thanked them for their concern.

She never told them that she had great difficulty seeing and hearing, let alone using, the smartphone … and died three years later.

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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Written by Peter Leith


Total Comments: 6
  1. 0

    While most children ‘have the best intentions’ when trying to help their parents, they seem to forget that most parents have been making their own decisions for many, many years WITHOUT the children’s help. Unless mentally unable to do so, are quite capable of making decisions that affect their lives for many years to come.
    In most cases, when children are trying to talk their parents into making changes, it is to suit the children and make THEIR lives easier, not the parents. 99% of people are quite happy living in the same house they have been in most of their lives [married or otherwise] – it is familiar, close to everything, your neighbours know you, they speak to you and will pop in to check that things are alright if they don’t see you for a few days, or they hear unusual noises coming form your home.
    Even when moving into aged care you do not always get that type of inclusion and 95% of the time you DO NOT get that if you downsize in a different suburb /city/town/state.

  2. 0

    Let your parents/s stay put, even if one passes away. The comfort, memories, security, same Dr, fruit shop, will keep them alive in a more meaningful way. Unless they require care in which case a grandchild could move in if at uni or ensure they have help to do the things they can no longer do.
    Visit regularly, help them cook a meal, and eat with them, help them with a raised garden bed, even if you do most of it, make them feel involved and needed.
    How often do you visit your parents. Discreetly offer to get some shopping on the way, the food they like…not what you want. They raised you now your turn to pay it forward. Inclusion vs memories and familiarity is something I would love to see more research on.
    Most people die within 9 months of moving into care. They can’t offer what family can no matter how hard they try.

    • 0

      Absolutely! Mum (94) is in her own home. She bought it herself in the early eighties when she and Dad split up.
      I (69) am now her part-time carer. She is the other carer. I live about ten mins away so I am “on-call” most of the time. She has a mobile but isn’t keen to use it (it’s on a free-calls plan).
      My wife and I see her at least twice a week. It’s not hard. She has her favourite grocery shop which she goes to every week (usually with me or my wife). She has a regular outing every Tuesday with her friends. And I try tyo make one of mt visits on a Saturday so the visits are spread out through the week. If I need a holiday we arrange a community service for the transport to her outings. There are 4 of us kids. We all pitch in and help where we can, but I am the “local” one so it falls to me.
      And I gladly do it! Why? She’s my mum!
      Besides, I owe her for around 24 years of upbringing!

  3. 0

    I agree that the elderly are still able to make decisions for themselves. To downsize costs a fortune in stamp duty, fees, commissions and advertising. To enter a nursing home costs a fortune. Only their shareholders make a profit. Allow the elderly the choice on where they prefer to live. Also allow the elderly the power to decide when and where they choose to fall of the perch. Update your documents, wills and Advance Care Directives too.

  4. 0

    My mother lived in Switzerland and we moved her into an old age care facility after she had a fall and couldn’t care for herself in her own house anymore. 18 months later she was dead – we learnt of the statistics on Switzerland, 30% of people entering an aged care facility die within a year! Staying in your own home and being active doing the daily chores keeps older folk alive it seems.

  5. 0

    I have one son who constantly tells me what I should be doing. He wants us to sell up and live in an apartment. It causes me a lot of stress. My children all seem to think I’m not capable of making my own decisions. I really do get sick of it. I’m the carer for my husband who has dementia and they make it harder with all the advice they give me.
    My husband and I have lived in this house for nearly fifty years. My friends are close by. Everything I need is close by. When I go shopping I always meet people I’ve known for years and we will chat. Even the times I’ve been in hospital I felt like it was MY hospital.



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