A significant number of families these days are learning to live with their elderly parents. Whether it’s due to financial reasons, health reasons or other issues, families are struggling to live together under one roof.
…40 percent of care recipients live in their caregiver’s household…agingcare.com
Whether it’s the older adults moving in with their children or the adult children moving in with the older parent, living all together again is not an easy task or decision to make. Everyone wants to live their own lives but life doesn’t always give us everything we want.
When a family decides to live with aging parents, they are making one of the most important decisions that can affect every relationship in their lives. This decision could impact careers and finances as well physical health for everyone involved which is why this choice needs careful consideration before going through with it!
I would recommend to consult with a Senior Living Advisor (aka Senior Care Consultant) about this decision. That person can help you through some of these difficult conversations that you should be having with your aging parent(s).
Should You Live With Elderly Parents?
One thing to remember is that our aging parents may have grown up in a multi-generational home so the idea of living with their adult children may not seem like a bad thing to them. But the same may not be true for their adult kids.
The decision as to whether or not you “should” live with your aging parents will be a personal one between your parents and you. Only you and your family can decide if it’s the right thing to do or not.
It may be cheaper than putting the person in a nursing home (which costs about $80,000 per year on average) or an assisted living facility (about $43,000 per year on average), but you could pay a heavy price in terms of time, stress, fatigue, and strained relations.Seniornavigator.org
But, there are some questions that all families should ask themselves before packing their moving boxes.
- Is there enough space in the home to give everyone some privacy when they need it?
- What is your relationship with your parent(s)? If it’s not very good, can you live with that every day?
- If you have a spouse and children, what are their thoughts on living with your elderly parent(s)?
- Do your parents have lifestyle habits that do not agree with your lifestyle? (i.e. smoking in the house, very loud television cause they can’t hear it, staying up late at night, etc.
- What level of care needs (if any) does your parent require? Do they need 24 hour supervision? If so, is the family prepared and able to provide that?
- What if your parent(s) live for a long time? Can you handle living with them for 10, 15 or more years?
- Are there specific home modifications that must be made and is that affordable?
- Are you able to take time off from work if needed to care for your parent or take them to the doctor, etc.
- If your parent is moving into your house, will they be able to maintain their social network?
Take a look at their current situation and decide what is going to work best for them, the parent and family. After all, it’s a give and take relationship.
How Do You Survive Living With An Elderly Parent?
If you’ve lived away from your aging parents for some time, you may find that living with them again (whether it’s in their home or yours) is not going to be easy.
But the good news is that there are ways that you can survive it. Here are some tips that can help you.
Don’t Just Wing It!
In order to make the relationship with your elderly parents as nice and smooth as possible for both parties involved, it is important that you prepare by setting some boundaries.
After all, being prepared can go a long way in making any situation more tolerable.
What does this look like? Here are some examples.
- Establish areas of privacy. That means a room for everyone to escape to when needed. It also means privacy concerning mail, phone calls, etc.
- Schedules. Creating and keeping to a schedule is an ideal way to avoid conflict. Think of when your children were involved in multiple activities and school – you most likely had a calendar to keep up with everyone’s schedule.
- Household decisions. It’s important to establish who is in charge of the decisions that need to be made for the household. That includes finances, home maintenance and repairs, remodeling, etc.
Be Realistic About Your Parents’ Abilities
I have a few friends who are caring for their elderly parents in their own home and have unrealistic expectations of what their parents can safely do. This can create a lot of frustration and unsafe situations.
My recommendation is to ask your doctor for a complete assessment of your parent(s) by an Occupational Therapist. The OT will assess things like dressing, bathing, preparing a meal, managing finances, etc. This can give you a thorough picture of what your senior parent is safely capable of doing.
In turn, this also gives you (and other family members in the household) a good idea of what everyone will need to do for their senior loved one.
Here are some examples of what your parents may need help with (if not now, perhaps in the future).
- Help with ADL’s such as bathing, dressing, toileting and eating.
- Help to keep track of medications and appointments.
- Assistance in the kitchen to prepare meals.
- Transportation to and from appointments and social engagements.
- Encouragement and counseling .
- Help with mobility inside and outside the house.
Knowing what you may end up being faced with can help you to assess whether or not you will need some respite care from an outside caregiver. Or, as a family you may decide that a long-term care facility may be a better option for everyone.
It may be helpful to talk to your physician about recommending intervention by a third party such as geriatric care managers or social workers? They can be great sources of advice and guidance in this difficult time.
Make The House Safe For The Senior(s)
The other benefit of an assessment by an Occupational Therapist is that it can give you a list of what may need to be done in the house to make it safer for your senior parents.
You can also hire a Senior Home Safety Specialist as well to do an assessment of your home. The Senior Home Safety Expert has extensive experience in examining the setting where an older person lives and making suggestions for improving that environment to make it safer for that specific senior.
Here’s a short list of some examples of what may need to be done in the house to make it safer.
- Easier access into and out of the shower and/or bathtub.
- A raised toilet seat with or without grab bars.
- Grab bars throughout the house where it’s needed.
- Possible removal of doorway thresholds.
- Addition of a lift chair in the living room area.
- Monitors in your senior parents’ bedroom.
- Door alarms if your senior parent suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Removal of throw rugs and any item that they may end up tripping over.
- Decluttering of living area spaces to help avoid bumping into furniture and also accommodate for a walker or wheelchair.
- Making steps into the house and inside the house safer by making them non-slip and ensuring there are handrails on both sides.
Making these physical changes can help older people to be more independent in their living environment.
As I mentioned above, it’s important to keep a schedule of appointments, activities, medications, etc.
Now that the house will be filled with more “things”, it’s more important than ever to follow the old adage, “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.” (goodreads.com)
You will also want to be prepared in case, for whatever reason, there comes a time when there is no one to care for your care recipient for a few hours or more. This means you will need to have, on hand, some names of caregivers that you can call to come and help. Or, you may ask a close friend for some help.
You can collect names of some individuals or you can contact a caregiving service company for this.
Don’t Put Off The Legal Stuff
It’s so very important to take care of the legal documents that need to be prepared such as wills and living wills, power of attorney and much more. Doing so will make life so much easier for the parents and their family.
I recommend that you speak with an elder law attorney about what legal documents are needed for your specific situation.
Do Not Ignore Your Own Needs
Caregiver burnout is very, very real so do not let the stress of living with and caring for a senior overwhelm you.
One of the biggest mistakes that family caregivers make is that they ignore their own needs (and those of their own family) for the sake of caring for their elderly parent(s). Believe me, this can affect your mental health in ways you could have not imagine.
My years of working with elder care as an Occupational Therapist taught me that this never ends well, for anyone. So I urge you to please make sure to take care of yourself and your family FIRST as much as possible. This means mentally and physically as well.
I know that this can be a very difficult situation for you at this time of your life. There are so many factors that play into this – guilt, shame, trauma, etc. But for your sake, and for the sake of your entire family it’s extremely important that you protect yourself and your family unit.
Speak to your parent(s) about this so that they are aware of the situation.
If you need a counselor to help you through this process, I would highly recommend that you seek one out. Or, if there’s a support group in your area for caregivers, consider joining it. It’s a great resource!
How Do You Deal With An Annoying Elderly Parent?
What if the elderly parent that you are caring for is mean, or angry or simply behaves badly? What if they are triggering all the old resentments and anger in you that you suffered with throughout your childhood?
How do you deal with that?
The first thing I’d like to say is that it’s important to know that personality traits will not change as your parents grow older. In fact, it’s been my personal experience that they only become more exaggerated.
I witnessed this with so many of the patients I worked with as an Occupational Therapist and with my own parents as well. I call it the “moreso disease”. However they were when they were younger, they are only moreso now.
So, if you expect that they will become more appreciative of your efforts or less judgemental of how you live your life – you may be in for a very rude awakening.
Again, I would recommend that you (and your parent(s) if possible) speak with a counselor to help you through this.
“They are driving me crazy!” This phrase is uttered (or screamed) by family members everywhere who are caring for elderly loved ones. Caregivers often deal with unusual, unruly and embarrassing behavior from their care recipients.Agingcare.com
The second thing I want to mention is that if your elderly parent(s) are dealing with cognitive decline such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, their bad behavior may be due to their disease.
They may become combative and difficult to manage. This may mean that it’s simply unwise (and perhaps unsafe) for them to continue living in a household with family members. It may be time to consider an independent living facility or a nursing home.
You can read more about how to deal with difficult parents in our articles that address this issue.
- Coping With Elderly Parents Who Behave Badly
- What To Do When Elderly Parent Refuses Help
- How To Help Parents Who Don’t Want Help
Benefits Of Living With Elderly Parents
Although living with and caring for your elderly parents will be difficult, there certainly are benefits to this type of living arrangement.
Some that come to mind are…
Splitting the cost of living expenses – with more than one family living in one house, both can then contribute financially to the utilities, mortgage and maintenance of the house.
Eases caregiving duties – it would certainly be much easier to care for your own parents if you are living with them than it would be to constantly get in the car and go to where they are living. It saves you a lot of time. Read our caregiver checklist – it may help you.
Built in help – if children are living in the house they may be old enough to help with caring for their grandparents. If the seniors are capable enough they may be great built in sitters for the children!
Gives seniors a sense of purpose – if you can include your senior parent(s) in the household duties they would now have a sense of purpose in that they are helping you to raise your family.
Creating a close bond – for some families, living with grandparents can be a wonderful way to spend quality time with them. The children learn about their family history, benefit from the lessons their elders have already lived through and much more.
Repairing a ruptured relationship – this is something that most every adult child wants but few ever get. If your relationship with your aging parents has been difficult, you MAY (with some counseling help) be able to work on forgiving and forging through to a new and good relationship with each other. It’s extremely difficult to do but it may be possible.
Finally, the best way you can live with your elderly parents is by understanding the needs of everyone involved. Accepting what you cannot change, but taking control of what you can improve.