The aging process brings about many changes in one’s life. For some people, it is their change of residence that they may be the most unprepared for. We call the house or apartment we live in our home because it is where we feel the most comfortable, the most ourselves. Yet, circumstances have now made it too difficult for your aging parent to live in their own home. You’ve gone with them to visit nursing homes and retirement homes, but none of them seem to be the right fit, or are prohibitively expensive. And then the thought crosses your mind that maybe they can live with you. This is a noble thought that can lead to very positive experiences. Such a merger can save a significant amount of money, while also providing your aging parent the comfort that you feel they are entitled to. But, as with all things, there are certain considerations that you should be aware of before move-in day. These key factors will be highlighted in this post.
Is there in fact enough space for your parent? This is an obvious concern, but one that needs to be addressed from the outset. Ideally, you will be able to provide them with their own room so that they can have the privacy they’ve come to expect. As much as your son or daughter loves their grandparent, a bunk bed setup will probably not be the recommendation of your parent’s doctor. What about their belongings? After a lifetime, your parent has surely collected a number of items that are fairly important to them. Are you able to accommodate their most cherished belongings? It will be important to discuss with your parent what they will want to keep, and what can be sold or donated. All members of your household should be involved in this discussion. While your mother may want to keep her ottoman that she’s had for fifty years, your spouse may think that it clashes too much with the rest of the living room décor. All parties should be in agreement over this issue so conflict can be avoided on moving day and beyond.
It is likely that you will need to have some renovations done to ensure that your parent is able to live in your home safely. The extent of this work will depend on your parent’s health condition, and the current state of your home. A walk-in bathtub is one of the more popular safety features to purchase, as washing is a dangerous activity that the elderly engage in. Many falls occur in the shower, and a fall is a serious thing that can significantly lower your parent’s quality of life. Broken hips and acquired brain injuries are very difficult conditions to treat. You can expect to pay at least $2,500 for the product, and an additional charge for installation. A disability ramp is incredibly important if your parent is in a wheelchair. The average price for one is $1,400 to $2,000. Installing a grab bar in the bathroom next to the toilet is cost effective. This is another way that falls can be prevented and will only cost about $20.
3. Privacy Issues
Living in their own home allowed your parent to enjoy their privacy to the fullest extent. Being surrounded by additional people in close quarters will make it difficult for them to achieve the same level of privacy. Ensuring that your parent has adequate space can mitigate this problem. Do they have an area where they can enjoy alone time? Is your household’s schedule predictable? In a house that has people constantly coming and going it can be difficult for your loved one to do the things they enjoy. What about your privacy? It has likely been awhile since you last lived with your parent, and during that time they were used to being in control of the house. Now that your parent is living in your house, will they respect your privacy? This new dynamic in your relationship could bring unexpected difficulties. Boundaries should be openly discussed so that animosity doesn’t build between you and your parent.
4. Impact on your family
Does your family get along with your parent? If there are typically clashes at family gatherings, it is likely that your parent moving in will only make the situation worse. Being in a tight space can also bring out new problems that didn’t exist previously. Sacrifices will need to be made by both parties. This type of arrangement could also bring your family closer together. It may have been difficult for the whole family to visit your parent while they were living on their own, but now access could be just a few steps down the hallway. There are also caregiving considerations that will be further discussed below. Certain activities may need to be completed by family members, and this can be quite the burden. The stress this can cause should be carefully considered.
5. Caregiving Role
How much caregiving does your parent currently need and is likely to need in the near future? You should be aware of any health conditions they may have, and how these conditions will progress as time passes. You may be in a position to help out, but to what extent? Plan a schedule organizing the roles you will be taking on so that you can know what to expect. This is especially true if you are working full time and have young children. Some tasks that may seem like an easy addition to current duties such as cooking can have unexpected complications. Your parent may have a condition that has dietary restrictions, and you will also need to be keenly aware of their medication needs. Also consider that in performing this new role you will have less time for other activities. So while you may want to ensure that your spouse is not unnecessarily burdened with taking care of your parent, the fact that you are, may mean that they need to perform more of the family duties that you would typically do. For example, taking your children to soccer practice may no longer be a shared responsibility because you will be busy taking your parent to doctor’s visits.
With your parent no longer having the expense of financing living expenses in a separate home, hiring private help could be a more viable option. Both personal care and specialized nursing care can be provided with these services. Using an agency is a great way to simplify the hiring process. A reputable agency will ensure that its staff is well vetted, so that you can be confident that you are receiving the care that you expect from someone who knows what they are doing. It will also be easier to get someone who is the right fit for your parent on a compatibility level. A connection between caregiver and patient makes the experience more enjoyable for all parties.
6. Handling Conflict
Even with intensive planning and careful consideration of potential issues, it will be difficult to avoid conflict entirely. You need to be prepared for this inevitability. Serious medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease will only exacerbate this issue. As your parent continues to age, the number of activities that they can no longer do will increase. This can cause mental distress that is difficult for your parent to handle. They will want to be independent, but will increasingly rely on the help of others. Much of the time they will simply be trying to not be a burden to you and the rest of your family. It is important to be open with your parent, and tell them that you understood the role you would be taking on when you originally made the decision for them to move in. Tell them that they don’t have to worry about extra work or pressure they are causing because you love them and you want to take care of them like they have taken care of you. Such conversations can go a long way to relieve emotional stress from both parties, and allow your parent to focus on maintaining their health.
7. An Alternative Solution
In-law apartments are becoming more popular as a way to accommodate an aging parent. These dwellings must have their own entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and living space, but are otherwise open to variation. It can be as simple as having a basement apartment, or as elaborate as a separate structure on your property. Some people even choose to build the apartment over the garage. While this will be more expensive than only providing a bedroom for your parent, there are obvious benefits. A lot of the conflict that could arise from being in tight living conditions can be avoided when your parent has their own living space divided from yours. This type of arrangement is also cheaper than your parent having an entire property, and allows them to be close enough to you so that you can more easily help them.
Before making your decision, reflect on these points and the particular circumstances of your situation. Do not rush into a choice that you may later regret because of unexpected difficulties. It will be much harder to ask your parent to leave your home than it was to invite them in. At the same time, remember that many people who choose to bring their aging parent into their home are glad they did so. It can be a very rewarding experience that can further develop family bonds. Open communication with your parent and the rest of your family is crucial to obtaining a positive outcome for all parties.