ParentCare » Vol. 20

Caregiving Now!

Research, Trends, and Products

By Erin Hansen

daughterhuggingmom-copyIf you are considering having your elderly parent or relative move into your home, it is important to consider all the lifestyle adjustments, role changes, and changes in relationships that will ultimately occur ~ and yes, it can be a daunting prospect, so before making the decision, take a close look at many of the issues that you and other members of your family already living with you may face.

Emotional Issues.
In order for this new arrangement to work, you and your elder must examine your relationships with each other. Even if you are blessed with loving and caring relationships, you must determine if you can live together. By honestly answering the following questions, you will be on your way to determining if you should consider the move.

___ Have you had a relationship that has been open and honest?
___ Have you been able to settle past differences?
___ Are there any unresolved issues?

Living Arrangements.
After you determine that you are emotionally ready to make the move, you must examine the living arrangements. Often, two of the biggest adjustments for an elder to make are A) being restricted to the lower level of a house because of difficulty navigating stairs and B) not being “allowed” to cook/use appliances in the kitchen because of poor memory and/or  compromised dexterity. These issues can turn into very emotional ones for the whole family. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

___ Is there enough room in your home for everyone to live comfortably?
___ Do any minor or major changes need to be made to accommodate any disabilities or mobility problems your parent or relative may have?
___ Have you reviewed the home for safety traps and potential problems?
___ Are you taking into account all privacy issues?
___ What, if any, furniture will your relative bring with him or her?
___ If your elder has Alzheimer’s Disease or other form of dementia, will wandering be a problem?
___Should doors and windows always be secured?
___ Can you identify “Danger Zones” that should be restricted?
___ Can you identify “Safe Zones” where your elder is free to wander and explore?
___ Are there areas of the home where family members can separate themselves from the stresses of caregiving?

Financial Caregiving.
As you take on more responsibility for your elder’s well-being, you may find yourself managing his/her financial affairs. This is a doubly challenging responsibility since it presents the additional burden of spending time writing out bills, balancing accounts and managing investments. It also may require you to delve into very private matters that parents and relatives rarely share even with their children.

___ Have you considered automatic payment of recurring bills?
___ Should all adult family members understand and participate in the financial matters?
___ Have you researched low-cost or free assistance services?
___ Do you regularly meet with other family members to agree on new expenditures or to keep them apprised of accounts?
___ Have you discussed responsibility for out-of-pocket expenses with your siblings and your elder?

Another important issue to resolve is whether your elder will need assistance during the day. This consideration is especially important if the rest of your family works or goes to school outside the home.

___ If assistance is required, what arrangements can be made?
___ If your parent requires no daily assistance, will you be able to take time off from work to take him/her  to appointments or care for her when she is ill?

Relationship Changes.
Role changes may be one of the hardest factors to deal with. If an elder is asked to abide by the rules of the household although he/she is free to voice opinions, he/she now lacks the authority to make final decisions, and this “demotion” can be a very difficult adjustment.  Conversely, it can be different for the now-adult child to assert authority over the elder without feeling overwhelming guilt or causing resentment.

___ Are you prepared for role reversals that may occur? For example, your elder may no longer feel like the “parent.”
___ Are you prepared to make rules that may not always be warmly received by your elder?

Emotional Space.
One of the biggest complaints people have when they take on the responsibility of having an elder move in is that they have no time: they’re exhausted and they do not get enough sleep. This is especially true for those who care for parents or relatives with special needs such as those with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

___ Will you be able to cope with encroachment on your privacy? Some of us require more emotional space than others and may resent having someone around all the time.
___ Also, will you be afraid to be yourself? You must consider how you will feel having to be the source of care and entertainment for your new dependent.

Family Consent/Approval.

___ Have you discussed issues regarding caring for your elder with other family members?
___ Have you discussed the move with your siblings and other relatives of your elder?
___ Will other siblings or relatives share in caregiving and occasionally host the elder in their home?
___ Are they in agreement with the decision to take in a new resident?
___ Is anyone upset or unhappy?
___ Have your young children been consulted and do they understand the new situation?

It is extremely important for both parties not too feel restricted because of the arrangement.

___ Will you be able to support your parent or relative’s outside interests?
___ If he enjoys going to baseball games, will you be able to take him or make arrangements for him?
___ Will your elder occasionally leave home to go to a senior center or visit with other older friends?
___ Will you be able to continue your own activities?

Respecting Yourself and Your Elder.
You must always remember to respect yourself and not let your own health ~ mental or physical ~ suffer. You must frequently pat yourself on the back for taking on such a major responsibility. Have a support system in place for when stress and resentment build up ~ as they are bound to from time to time. At the same time, it’s important to maintain respect for your elder.

Although at times it may be difficult, your relative should not be made to feel as though he/she is a burden.

Your Elder’s Contributions to the Family.
Consider how much your parent can contribute to the family. Think of all the experiences your mom or dad has had that can be shared with you and your children. You can learn about parts of your family tree that you never knew about or events in history that you have only read about.  Often, caregivers form even deeper bonds with their parents once under the same roof than they had in the past.

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