If it’s time to consider inviting your aging parent to move in with you and your family, be prepared for your life to change in ways you never expected. However, with the help of our experts, you can make the transition can be as smooth as possible. Here are seven important things to consider before your parent joins your household.
1. You will soon be roommates.
When your parent moves in, everyone’s routine will change. In addition, bear in mind that your parent may have unrealistic expectations that you will now be catering to him or her. Readjust that notion quickly, suggests Pamela. D. Wilson, a caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker in Golden, Colorado. “The belief has to be that the parent is like a ‘roommate’ — independent — and that shared activities will occur when possible,” she says. “The belief should not be that the adult children are now devoting their total life to the care of a parent. This stands even if you don’t work.” Note: There must also be discussions about assisted living in the future. “There may be a point when this situation won’t work for everyone,” Wilson adds. “It might even consider keeping the living arrangements month to month or having a quarterly discussion to discuss whether this set-up is working.”
2. Everyone needs a room.
If you’re considering having your parent move in, make sure you have space. It’s critical for your parent to have his or her own bedroom (and better yet, a bathroom too) that isn’t shared with anyone else in the household. “The bedroom should have its own television and land line (or cellphone),” Wilson says. “Many family members do not realize that work schedules and the schedule of a retired parent may be very different and conflict. For example, some older adults begin to have their days and nights reversed due to dementia. This means that they sleep all day and are awake all night.”
3. Heed hearing loss.
Older adults aren’t trying to annoy you when they raise the volume on the TV to extreme highs; it’s just that they often can’t hear the TV. One solution: Purchase a headset so that the TV isn’t heard throughout the house at all hours of the day, Wilson suggests. Also, you want to firmly state TV-watching rules as soon as your parent moves in. “House rules can be made that if there’s a TV in the family room, consensus wins,” she says. “Otherwise if he or she doesn’t like what’s on, the parent can watch TV in his or her own bedroom.” In addition, if the headset doesn’t work and hearing is an issue, make sure your parent’s hearing aids are up to date. “I will say that older adults don’t like hearing aids,” she says. “They are expensive and are usually purposely thrown out or lost when the person doesn’t want to wear them. The most success occurs when the aids are purchased at the very beginning when hearing loss is minimal and they can get used to wearing them.”
4. Accept any help you can get.
Ask Alison Jacobson, a blogger, family safety expert, and caregiver for her 89-year-old aunt who lives in her house — along with her husband who has MS — and she will tell you that you can’t go it alone. “If your parent is moving in with you because her health is failing, how will you manage additional doctor’s visits and assisting with daily activities?” she asks. “Do you have a back-up person, perhaps a sibling, who can help with these responsibilities so that it doesn’t all fall on you? Create a support system right away so that you don’t become a full-time caregiver. Consider automating as much as you can — online grocery delivery, home automation systems so you monitor comings and goings.”
5. Get a grip on mealtimes.
If you’re working all day, the evening meal will likely be a ‘joined’ meal where the entire household eats together. “This means everyone is on their own for breakfast and lunch,” Wilson says. “If the parent is able, [he or she] might agree to make dinner several nights a week for the family. Otherwise, if the parent has difficulty cooking or cannot be trusted to use the stove (and turn it off), then the adult children have the responsibility of making meals that can be reheated or leaving foods like sandwiches and finger foods in the refrigerator.”
6. Build in alone time.
For your sanity, there must be agreement that a paid caregiver will come in on a regular schedule each week to allow you time away. “The parent will pay for this type of care, and this should be agreed upon before the parent moves in,” Wilson says. “Also, are there other adult children with whom the parent can go stay for a week every now and then if you want to go on vacation? This is very important to map out before anyone moves in.”
7. Don’t forget to factor in your pets.
“If your parent doesn’t like your pets, don’t let [him or her] move in,” Wilson says. “And if the older parent is home all day, are you expecting that he or she will let the pets outside? All of this has to be spelled out from the beginning of your parent’s time living in your household, and remember: Large pets can be tripping hazards for older adults if they are underfoot.”
This post was written by Lambeth Hochwald.