The overwhelming expression of love that the mother of a newborn feels toward her helpless tiny baby is universal. She doesn’t mind dedicating years of her life to ensure the baby’s safety and security. It’s only natural.
It is becoming second nature in our culture for children to return this favor later in life. When an elderly parent’s health and wellbeing begins to deteriorate, more and more adult children are repaying the kindness and patience they had received. How would you know if it is the right time to combine your household with that of your aging parent?
Here are a few of the warning signs:
- Difficulty with physical mobility
- Forgetfulness or confusion
- Unsafe driving habits
- Lack of interest in personal hygiene
- Unexplained weight loss
- Inability to maintain medication or treatment regimens
- Extreme loneliness, often following the loss of a spouse
Although your aging parent may not be on the verge of collapse, visiting them regularly will give you a feel for how quickly their condition is deteriorating. You will get a sense about the impact it would have on their health and wellbeing if they were with you full-time.
So, let’s say you’ve agreed that the time has come. Should you go rent a U-Haul and that’s that? If only it were that simple. There are many factors that you need to consider, both as a family unit and in concert with your aging parent, to ensure that your new household arrangement works for all of you.
The most important part of any relationship is communication. Establish regular family meetings where everyone can discuss issues openly. Initially, you will need to talk about:
- Lifestyle wishes of the aging parent – degree of privacy and personal space, incorporation of furniture and other personal effects and pets.
- Schedule modification – meal times, sleep habits, need for quiet, social life, healthcare regimens.
- Caregiver responsibilities – all family members should contribute to the care of the aging parent because the primary caregiver will need to have assistance and relief to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Other important considerations: power of attorney, financial considerations, and other outside contributors, especially as the aging parent’s health deteriorates.
Once these main issues are discussed, the family can plan for the necessary accommodations. If remodeling is possible, modifying the layout of the home can often make the transition more successful. In addition, every family member’s feelings should be considered with dignity and respect. These changes will undoubtedly result in a loss of freedom and privacy for everyone involved. It is important to keep the lines of communication open and to work with individuals, perhaps with the help of a counselor, to find creative ways to resolve issues.
Inviting your aging parent into your household is a great act of kindness. It is a demonstration that despite numerous challenges, the importance of providing your aging parent with a safe and secure surrounding in their final days is paramount. It will no doubt add comfort and joy to their lives while living in the midst of family, and it will shape the character of all the others involved, resulting in a greater appreciation for life.