In our previous article in the last issue, we discussed the indicative behaviors and home situations of elderly parents that would indicate a cause for alarm. Sometimes, it’s just a subtle change or two that is easily excusable. Don’t ignore them! Let your antennas go up and follow your instincts. These changes are indicators of the dangers of leaving your parents at home unsupervised and the need to reevaluate their living situation. We explored several different types of living arrangements that may be appropriate for you parents. We discussed living at home independently with home care services, moving them to an assisted living facility, intermediate care facility or a skilled nursing facility commonly known as a nursing home. The last option we explored was moving your parents into your home.
As you explore possibilities to care for your aging parents, and review all the different options, you may decide that having them live with you is the best option. There are certainly challenges to this arrangement, but many people have found that living in a multigenerational house can be an enriching experience for the whole family. However, no matter how close your family relationships are, adding another person to the household changes things. There are many things to take into account when considering this option.
Proactively consider these questions:
* How will the move affect your spouse, your children and your siblings?
* How will your parent’s presence impact your family routine, activities and privacy?
* Are there unresolved issues between your spouse and your parent?
* Will you expect other family members to help out?
* Should part of your parent’s income go toward living expenses?
* Will the move mean you need to adjust your work hours to provide care?
* What will you do when you vacation? Take your parent? Arrange for care?
* How does your parent feel about the move?
* Will you need some home care assistance?
Having a parent move in to your home will require some physical rearranging. Some family members may be displaced or inconvenienced by the new setup, so communication with everyone is vital. If you can afford it, consider an addition with a prefab unit attachment or explore converting a garage or side porch into an in-law suite. Some families may rent an apartment in their building or on their block to be close by and give their parents a sense of privacy. Your parents may struggle getting acclimated to a new living arrangement and neighborhood. To help them settle in, spend time helping them find the local pharmacy, bank, faith community, recreation center and other services. If they are looking for independent daytime activities, visit a nearby senior center for information on classes and programs. If your parents require more intensive care, look into a Certified Home Health Agency. If you and your family are providing full-time care in your home because your loved one is not covered for home care under Medicare / Medicaid or not enough hours are provided, look into supplementing the care with private pay home care. Supplementing with a few hours a day of home care from either private pay or some type of insurance will go a long way to make the situation work. Some families may just need weekend hours because that is when family members are often away and cannot have steady supervision. Consulting with a Geriatric Care Manager or social worker may be beneficial as you consider your options and what you will and will not be able to do for your parent.
A once-authoritative parent may become more dependent. You may become the guardian who gives direction and controls many aspects of your parent’s life, while trying to preserve as much autonomy as possible for your parent. You may have less time for your spouse and for yourself. Come to an agreement with your siblings regarding how much and what kind of help you can expect to receive from them. You may need your children to help with more household responsibilities including care of their grandparent. These role changes can be hard adjustments for everyone. Be honest with yourself and do not allow unresolved conflicts or feelings of guilt or obligation pressure you into taking on more than you can manage. Be prepared for resistance from your parent if they feel that they can no longer set the rules, control their situation or fear losing independence, but make sure your parent is involved in the decision-making process and that their perspectives and preferences are heard. Agree upon financial arrangements up front. Given available resources, will your parent be able to contribute towards food and utilities? If you have siblings or other family members with whom your parent is comfortable, can you agree in advance that they can stay with your parent, or accommodate your parent temporarily in their home so you are able to get a break from care giving or take a vacation?