Aging parents represent a combination of challenges that are uniquely difficult for their children. Knowing how to balance their autonomy with their safety is hard enough; combined with the time and monetary commitment caregiving represents, the equation becomes even more complicated.
Today we’ve compiled some things that need to be considered if you plan on living with elderly parents. It’s a decision that can’t be made lightly and requires serious planning, even if it ends up being the right choice in the end.
Consider an Assessment
Before committing to anything, you may want to have your parents assessed. This is a comprehensive review of their mental, physical, environmental, and financial condition. In essence, it is a test on how well they’re doing on their own.
In some cases, even elderly parents may be quite suited to living on their own. Be it through diet, exercise, genetics, or just plain luck, some older folks can remain fully-autonomous for longer than others.
If the results of the assessment say otherwise, then it may be time to consider your options. At the very least, it’s time to bring up your concerns about their health and safety.
This is where having your assessment done through outside, professional help can come in handy. The word of a figure of authority may come off as more reliable and unbiased than that of one’s concerned children. In any case, getting your parents to agree they need help with living their day-to-day will make the moving process much easier than if every step has to be an argument or even legal battle.
Your Aging Parents Aren’t Just Guests
One mistake many families make is thinking of caregiving in the same way one might think of entertaining temporary visitors. This often won’t work and for a number of reasons at that.
For one, once parents require outside help, that often won’t change for the remainder of their lives. This means they may be living in your home for years, even decades if they’re lucky.
This means a simple guest setup won’t be suitable. You’re going to need to find a mover and figure out what is to be done with all their stuff, from furniture to silverware to even the home itself (assuming they’re not renting).
If they’re still in the right state of mind, discuss what needs to be kept and what can be sold or given away. If they have a home or other big-ticket item that can be sold, consider using the money to improve their experience living with you.
One option many families choose is to use the profits from such sales to hire extra help, or even to expand the room their parents will be staying at to be more comfortable.
Your Home Must Fit Their Needs
Most aging parents suffering from one or more medical problems of varying levels of severity; it is the nature of aging.
For a quick example, over half of people over 65 suffer from arthritis. On top of that, as we age, our bones tend to grow more brittle and our hand-eye coordination declines. For many elderly people, mobility becomes a real concern.
If you’re going to serve as a caregiver to your parents, their health issues need to be accounted for. Dangers like slipping in the shower or down stairs need to be considered. If their mental state is declining, you may need child safety locks and ways to help stop them from wandering off unattended, including when you’re sleeping.
Bathing and using the bathroom will become more difficult too; in many cases, parents may need help doing these things. If you’re to be their primary caregiver, you have to be prepared to address these needs.
Get Legal Matters Squared Away
Caregiving for one’s parents can be legally tricky. Ideally, your parent or parents will be cooperative but this won’t always be the case. Some parents, either through stubbornness or mental illness, will try to refuse your help or may not even be capable of consenting to anything to begin with.
Whether a parent cooperates or not, talk to a lawyer about your options. At the very least, you will want some basics to be established, such as their will, whether you are allowed to use their assets (specifically their money), and whether you can access information like their medical and banking records.
Ideally, you will be granted power of attorney over your aging parent, but this won’t always be appropriate if they are still of sound mind.
These issues matter even if you have the full cooperation of your parents. If there is a medical or financial emergency, you may need access to their assets and/or the ability to consent on their behalf.
This is doubly true if their mental state is declining, as this means they may be able to understand and consent to changes now but won’t be able to later.
Take Caregiving Seriously
It is quite reasonable to decide your aging parents could use your help long term and either have them move in with you or your family move in with them. Most people care very much about their parents and it’s easy to worry as age starts to affect them. At the same time, remember to consider the above.
Becoming the primary caregiver for one’s parents is not a decision to be made lightly. It takes work and dedication; make sure you’re prepared.
That said, living with your elderly parents can also be fulfilling. It can be nice knowing you’re giving back after all the work and love they dedicated to you. So long as you’re ready for the challenge, it can be a major help in keeping them safe and in good spirits in their later years.
Check out our other posts for more helpful guides and tips.