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Living with Elderly Parents: How to Make It Work for Everyone

Living with elderly parents

It is very common for people to move elderly parents or relatives in with them so that they can provide good care for them in a comfortable family setting. This option is often preferable to sending an elderly parent to a nursing home or assisted living facility where they might not feel at ease, as moving them into a family environment is likely to make them feel more ‘at home’.

However, inviting an elderly relative to live in your home can have its challenges. Aside from the added responsibility of caring and providing for the person, there is the possibility of occasional friction when they are in your home all the time. Therefore, before making any firm decisions on living with elderly parents, it’s important to evaluate all the factors for and against the move so that you can make it work for you, your children and your parents.

Key questions to ask

What kind of care will the person need? You will need to establish the person’s physical and mental condition, as well as any chronic illnesses they might have. If their health is still quite good, it is an ideal time to move them in with you as the transition will be smooth for everyone involved. However, it’s important to consider not just how their current health is, but how it is likely to be further down the line.

How much care can you provide? You might be able to provide a certain commitment of care to an elderly relative, but if their care needs are too difficult for you to manage or if it consistently impacts on your daily schedule, it’s worth investing in a qualified professional home care service.

How well do you get along? If you had a smooth, pleasant relationship with your parents during childhood, there’s a strong chance that you can move them into your home with minimal fear of conflict or argument. If, for whatever reason, you haven’t got along with them, don’t assume that things will work out fine just because you give them a place to stay. Also, conditions such as dementia can alter someone’s personality, so this may need to be considered.

Is your home conducive to their needs? If an elderly parent has mobility difficulties, they will either need to be given a ground floor room or you may need to adapt your home to suit them (e.g. by purchasing a stairlift). Similarly, if the person needs a wheelchair to move around, are your doors and hallways wide enough to accommodate this? Even if major adaptation isn’t needed, some room adjustments could be required.

Will the person contribute financially? By moving an elderly parent into your home, you will incur extra costs to cater for this. They might be willing to contribute in the form of rent or partially paying bills or groceries, but if they do not appear willing to give any financial contribution, this could be problematic. It’s best to talk this through beforehand so that the person will know, and accept, what is expected of them financially.

How does your family feel about the move? Even if you’re only too happy to take in an elderly relative, will your partner or children feel the same? For children especially, living with a grandparent or elderly relative is likely to be a major adjustment and one with which they might not be comfortable at first.

Have you the time to take this on? Moving an elderly relative into your home isn’t just about having them with you in the house. You’ll also need to find time to make purchases on their behalf and possibly drive them to appointments as well, so don’t blindly commit to taking in an elderly relative unless you’re confident you can manage it without your professional life being compromised.

How to explain the situation to children

For children who may have only seen their grandparents occasionally, it can seem unusual and possibly a little daunting to then have elderly relatives living in the same home as them all the time. It could be an uncomfortable experience for children at first, so it helps to explain a few things to them so that the transition will feel smoother for them.

• A grandparent could express sudden, negative emotions such as anger, anxiety or sadness. Let children know that, if an elderly relative was to suddenly react with anger or crying, it is not because of anything the child did or said.

• Let your children know that any medical conditions their grandparents have are not contagious, in case they are concerned that these might transfer over to them.

• Tell them that they might be needed to help with a few jobs around the house but reassure them that they won’t have any major responsibility. Also, praising them for any jobs they do for the good of their grandparents will make the child feel proud and will likely make them more willing to contribute help.

• Explain to children that their grandparents may sometimes act irrationally and, if there are any irrational habits your parents might have, talk with your children about how they could handle such situations.

• Even though dementia is a serious medical condition, it can sometimes come across in light-hearted ways that can be used for sharing a joke with the family, so long as the person with dementia appreciates the humour.
Living with elderly parents

Advice for living with elderly parents

Discuss all the fine details

• Whether you expect elderly parents to make a financial contribution while living in your home or you’d prefer if they didn’t, let them know what your expectations are regarding finances.

• Explain clearly to children why your parents are moving in and try to prepare them for the change as best as you can.

• If there are certain things that you expect from your children regarding your parents moving in, make these clear to them so that everyone in the household can cohabit amicably.

• Define who will be responsible for acquiring any medicines or supplements that your parents need and establish exactly the medications that need to be purchased.

• Delegate responsibility for bringing your parents to appointments if they need a way to get there and ensure that this delegation is fairly distributed among all parties involved.

• If your parents will be at home alone during the day, ensure that they have someone to care for them while you’re at work or away from home.

Ask your siblings to help

• If you have adult siblings living nearby who have time to help with some duties (e.g. driving to appointments, performing daytime tasks), ask them if they can help accordingly so that your responsibility is lessened.

• Make any such plans in advance of welcoming elderly parents into your home so that your brothers and sisters are prepared for this eventuality and will have accepted their duties in caring for your parents. That will make it far less likely for disputes to arise over who is meant to complete certain tasks.

Seek support

• No matter how hard you try, you can’t do it all on your own. Families entering a cohabiting agreement with elderly parents need to know of the support options available to them in their locality.

• It helps a great deal to avail of ancillary resources such as respite care and in-home professional care services, as well as caregiver support groups, so that elderly parents can always get the care they need, even when their designated carer is required elsewhere.