It’s got to the point when your elderly parents can no longer cope on their own, and you and your partner believe that perhaps they should come and live with you. Even if all the parties involved are happy about the arrangement, it will be a time of great adjustment. There are certain things that you need to consider before they actually arrive on the doorstep.
- Home fittings: your home is set up for younger people and may feature stairs or loose rugs that can be a challenge (or even a danger) for an elderly parent. Take an inventory and make decisions as to what to do about each item. Obviously, you can’t demolish your staircase, but perhaps you could install a stair lift or turn a ground floor den into a bedroom and bathroom. Make your house elder-friendly—imagine yourself as a person who can’t see very well and is a bit wobbly in the legs—sort out badly lit areas, remove loose floor rugs, and any tripping hazards.
- Home-aids: a frail person may need physical aids, such as a wheel chair, support bars in the shower, a bath chair, or a walker. These items are easy to buy or to hire. Think about where they can be stored when not in use. If your parent uses a wheel chair, are your doors wide enough? Are there steps to be negotiated? Do you have furniture that will be in the way?
- Health: elderly people often suffer a range of illnesses. For example, urinary infections while not life threatening (unless left untreated), can be most uncomfortable. Keep an eye open for any small changes in your parent’s physical well-being. Your father may be embarrassed to tell you that he is urinating more frequently than usual, so look out for clues. Old skin is usually thin, fragile skin, so watch out for abrasions or cuts and clean them immediately.
- Emotions: even though the situation of your elderly parents living with you may be a new one, you all bring historical emotional baggage with you. Your mother and you may have always fought a lot; your father and your partner may not see eye-to-eye. These types of relationships raise a red flag—perhaps it would be better to make other arrangements and not invite them to live with you. However, if your family just has the normal disagreements that all families have, then open communication is the key. Don’t let things fester, talk them out.
- Marriage: the relationship with your partner is the most important one that you have. Even if you are busy caring for and interacting with your elderly parents (who can be extremely demanding), try to do something with your partner at least once a week. It need not cost a lot or take up hours of time. Fun, easy-to-do events could include a walk in the park or on the beach, a snack at your local coffee shop, or window-shopping at the mall.
- Generations: if your children are still living at home when your parents move in with you, it gives the situation an additional twist. As the primary care giver for two different generations, you will have to try to balance their needs. Get your children involved in the caring with you if you can (but don’t force them). Try to allocate time for each generation, but warn them all that they’ll have to be flexible and be prepared to give and take.
- Yourself: make sure that you have some time out, even if it is at home. Ask your friends to visit you rather than you going out with them; if they’re good friends they won’t mind if your house is messy or bringing a tea-time treat with them. Indulge in a relaxing activity as often as you can. Having a bubble bath, listening to your favorite music, doing yoga, or reading a book can do wonders for the soul. The ideal solution is to get an alternative caregiver involved in helping you with your elderly parents; this person can be a relative, a neighbor, or someone from your church or club. If your health fails or you go into emotional burnout, you’re not going to be any good for anyone.
Having your elderly parents live with you is not an easy undertaking. However, it can work if you make sure that you are realistic about the situation. Try to have fun and enjoy the time together.
Our counselors and RNs at Partners in Healthcare are available to talk with you about your in-home care needs including how to reduce caregiver stress while providing better, affordable care. We are a senior care agency providing Elder Care in Orlando.