You can care for an elderly parent living with you by making simple adaptations to your home, giving them a space of their own, and setting clear boundaries. Here are some things to consider...
How to care for an elderly parent living with youWhen your elderly loved one moves in with you, the worries and demands of caring from a distance can be eased, but it can also be a huge adjustment for the whole family. When a parent is struggling to cope alone, moving in with you might be the perfect solution. Having family close at hand can help your loved one manage daily life and stay safe, which can allow you to relax in the knowledge that they're not at risk. The truth is there are a few more things you'll need to deal with:
- The needs of your other family members
- Different lifestyle expectations, like meal times and noise levels
- Space issues
- Responsibilities of caring
Home adaptationsCheck that your home is safe and manageable for your parent and consider how easily they’ll be able to move around. Look at your staircases, bathrooms and access to the front door. Depending on your loved one’s mobility and function you may need to consider installing ramps, stair-lifts or handrails to ensure safe access. Tiny downstairs cloakrooms can be tricky to use if they have a wheelchair or frame, so you may need to think about changing the layout or providing alternative facilities.
If your parent has deteriorating vision or mobility issues, it can be difficult to adapt to a new home. Small occasional tables, footstools or chairs with protruding legs can be a trip hazard and cluttered rooms can be impossible if you use a mobility aid.
Rearrange the furniture to widen walkways and provide a safer environment.
A space for themselvesIt’s important for your parent’s sense of wellbeing and independence that they have some space for themselves. Being able to get away from each other can also help keep you all sane. The size and layout of your home will determine how best to carve out that space; maybe a downstairs room could become a separate living room for your parent so that they can read, enjoy a little peace and quiet or watch whatever they like on the TV. If your parent struggles with stairs, a downstairs room could become a bed-sitting room, that they can safely access without your assistance.
Getting out and aboutMoving away from their own home and network will be tricky for your parent, and even with family around, they may feel socially isolated. Check out transport options, groups or religious centres so that they can stay social. Providing them with bus routes and timetables, or the number of a reliable mini-cab firm can ensure they don’t feel too dependent on you when they want to meet friends or go shopping.
Set boundariesIt’s important to talk openly and set expectations and boundaries from the outset, so that you can start as you mean to go on. How do you plan to share mealtimes? Will your parent contribute to family bills? Are they able and willing to manage day-to-day tasks like cooking, shopping, cleaning and tidying? The choices you make will depend on their abilities and needs. But it's easy to fall into the trap of treating your parent as a guest in the house, so that you're constantly running around after them and offering cups of tea. At the other end of the scale, your parent might feel so much at home in your house that they start making changes without saying anything. Getting home from work to find the kitchen cupboards have been re-arranged can be well-meant and infuriating in equal measure. This is why giving them their own space is important; if they want to make changes they can do whatever they want in their own room, without driving you up the wall.
This is for the long-term, allowing and promoting independence and a little give and take can help the household run smoothly.
Family dynamicsIt’s important to consider everyone in the family. Having a new member of the household can exert different pressures on your partner and your children. Demands on the bathroom can be a bone of contention, especially with teenagers in the house, so consider altering your home to prevent morning battles. Your parent may have different expectations of family life, expecting to all sit down together at mealtimes or socialise together in the evenings. Squabbles over TV choices or grandparental irritations about mobile phones can cause family resentment. Let your parent know how your family lives their lives while still welcoming them in to become a part of it.
If you possibly can it is a good idea to allow all family members their own space, so that they can have time to themselves when they need to.