West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

The Empty Nest is Full Again

Being old, Personal, Tosans, Elder Care, Tosa Business

Gosh, it's been a long time. I can't blame you if you've forgotten me - out of "site," out of mind. But I have a good excuse, really. See, I have a couple of new roommates that have kept me a little busy lately. My parents have moved in with us. Yep, we are officially a three-generation household.

Like many families, this happened in a hurry and not necessarily because of happy circumstances. My dad was diagnosed with dementia and my mom has long been battling macular degeneration. Neither can drive and so together, they make for quite a fragile pair. Because they lived in Illinois, I was close enough to visit but not close enough to help manage their lives. I have two siblings that both have very busy full-time jobs. One thing led to another and it seemed most logical for my parents to live with us.

To say this is an adjustment is a gigantic understatement, and not just for me, my husband and my daughter. It's an even bigger adjustment for my parents. Imagine being moved out of your home when you're 81 years old - a home that you liked very much. Some days, I'm amazed that they don't completely lose it and scream about their new surroundings.

Our daughter finished up with her sophomore year of college and came home to find Grandma and Grandpa comfortably lounging on the couch where she enjoyed watching "The Bachelorette" with her friends. Suddenly, she's finding the basement to be a nice, private hideaway.

One of our biggest challenges has been setting up a new network of health care providers for my parents. As is the case with many elders, they loved their doctors back home. So the idea that I could find them comparable medical services here in Wauwatosa seemed incredulous to them. But somehow, we've managed to do exactly that. The main benefit I'm finding is how helpful it is for me to be able to be at every medical appointment with them. I can't imagine how many seniors do this without any help. It must seem daunting to answer questions and remember the many details and medications and instructions that come along with any health care visit.

Along with the challenges of finding new doctors is keeping up with prescriptions and insurance. My husband has been an absolute champ in this department - hours on the phone with providers and wading through piles of paperwork to make sure that all of our health care bases are covered. Seriously, this is not for wimps.

On the plus side, I will tell you that my new roomies have become big fans of Wauwatosa. I've always loved Tosa and have told my parents for many years how great it is. They are from Glenview, IL, which is sort of like Tosa on steroids - slightly bigger and with a lot more money poured into it. (I swear, every other car is a Lexus.) But they too have seen how great Tosa is - they love how clean and pretty it is and they both love our library. (This was a very happy surprise because they came from a community that just recently built a multi-million dollar library.) They also love our restaurants. A few faves that they've enjoyed include: John's Sandwich Shop, Juniper 61, McGinn's and Mo's. My Dad is constantly amazed at what great places we have to eat around every corner.

So we are off on this new family "adventure." No, it isn't all balloons and rainbows, but what new family situation is? (Remember when you brought your newborns home from the hospital? Wasn't easy, was it? This is kind of the same only....more complicated and less portable.) 

Life is funny. Our nest had just emptied and now it's full again.

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