Almost everyone assumes that the parent stays in the role of the parent through to the end of their life. It’s true for some, however for many folks, the parent ages and needs their child to care for them at the end. Parenting the parent is actually a normal part of the life cycle, even though we don’t talk about it very much. We take care of them physically and emotionally, because we love them enough to return the favor. It’s a big undertaking and can be overwhelming for all family members. Before you move Mom or Dad into your home, here are things you need to take into consideration.
Altering Your Home
Of course, you are going to move things around in the home to accommodate for extra people now living in the home. Many elderly have to have other accommodations made that could very well mean physical alterations to your home. Railings, handicapped ramps, widening of hallways, stair lifts, and home elevators are your typical changes to the home that can be expensive but are well worth adding. Allowing your parent to have some mobility adds to their quality of life so it becomes important to have these alterations done. You may not need to get them all done immediately. Create a list, in order of importance, of alterations that are needed and work through that list as your budget allows.
Having a parent move into your home and needing care from you is a big adjustment to make. If you happen to have a spare room that can be turned into a bedroom for Mom and Dad, you have one aspect already taken care of. If you don’t, moving things around to make space can be a challenge. It may be time to decide whether some things go or not. If you have your own children in the home, this means adjusting children to new sets of rules so that everyone understands the changes coming. It means that you have to adjust for more food, more utilities used, possibly more fuel used for traveling to doctors’ appointments. You will now need to find a different balance to work and home life so that you can meet all your obligations. Some have even taken on a different job that offers more flexibility to care for their parent. You will even have to track all paperwork for your parent to be sure they are getting their care, receiving any income (retirement, disability, social security, etc) on a timely basis, and helping them with paperwork that needs to be completed. These are all important reasons to consider before taking in your parent!
The Emotional Adjustment
One of the hardest parts about taking care of your elderly parent is the emotional aspect. You are essentially parenting your parent who still sees themselves as your parent. It changes the dynamic and makes things unusual for everyone involved. Your parent may become rebellious to your efforts, much like a hormonal teenager. They don’t mean to be difficult, they are simply used to things being a certain way and you, their child, are now in control. Most adults are not okay with their child in control and want a sense of still able to make decisions about what happens to them. It becomes even harder if you are taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Throw in the financial stress, the stress on your marriage/partnership, the relationship with your own children, and your relationship with yourself and you are going to feel the effects of the stress tremendously. Whenever we care for our elderly parent, we have to find ways to take care of ourselves too.
There should be a lot of discussion in your home before moving your parent in. Make sure everyone is on the same page and understands what is about to happen. Stay strong as a family and care for those that took care of you when you needed it.