Moving an Elder Parent into
The holidays are now behind
us. For many, this is a rather quiet time of business. People are
emotionally spent and over extended from the holidays, and many are using
this time to regroup and begin working on those ‘New Years resolutions’.
For those of us that work in eldercare - especially information and
referral- this is a very busy time. Why, you ask? Because many adult
children went home to visit their elders during the holidays, and came
back concerned for their elders’ well being. If you are concerned for your
elder, there are many options and choices to offer support. One option
that children sometimes consider is moving their parent into their home.
Many adult children invite their elder home to live with them. This can be
a true blessing...or a terrible disaster. I have worked with many families
over the years that have moved their elder in with them - then called me
for help to move them out! I have had as many families call and say that
they are considering moving the elder in and want to discuss the pros and
cons. If you are trying to decide what is best for you and your elder,
perhaps the list below will give you a starting place.
Consider the reasoning behind the move.
If your elder is moving in because they are socially isolated and need
more interaction, there should be a plan in place to meet those needs. If
there are not a lot of people in your home on a daily/weekly basis, and
you work during the day, you better be prepared to be your elders sole
primary social interaction.
If your elder needs more personal assistance, or is not able to be alone,
how is your home situation going to be different from their own. Do you
work? Can your present work situation withstand the stresses of caregiving?
Is your job and present personal life able to support these changes?
Examine your own motives.
Why are you interested in changing your living situation. If you have a
good relationship, and a strong support system, how will the elder living
with you effect your daily life. Sometimes adult children want the elder
to move in to repair the relationship, or to build new bridges in the
family. Remember that health problems and changes can put a strain on any
relationship. When deciding how healthy the relationship is; look at the
past as much as the present. If you and your elder have had a stormy
relationship, but get along wonderfully now, could it be because you live
600 miles away?
Consider your elders health and physical limitations.
Is your home adaptable for your elder. If your elder has a
debilitating illness, know the prognosis for your elders’ condition. If
your elder has a rapidly moving disease, any move may be only temporary.
You may need to decide if your elder could handle two moves, should a
change be necessary.
Examine financial options.
Will the elder be responsible for any of the bills or incurred
expenses. Will the elder move into a house that the child already owns, or
will you purchase one together. It has been my experience that no one
really wants to talk about finances, and it turns up as a point of
contention later. I have seen arguments about grocery bills and buying
brand name items become explosive. This is where you really want to
examine lifestyle and adaptability.
Health care and services needed.
If your elder is moving from another state or another area of the same
state, there may not be the same services available for your elder. If
your elder is on certain health plans or means-tested assistance - such as
one of the Medicaid programs, they may not qualify in another state. If
your elder is on any of these plans they could lose a lot of financial and
Design a plan and measurement for success.
Do a family/household evaluation. Sit down and discuss your feelings
with all of the family involved, including any other family in the
immediate area. Talk honestly and frankly about everyone’ expectations.
- Those living in the
house. Don’t assume anything. Ask children and teenagers how they feel
about the elder moving in and how they feel they can help. If they will
be required to assist one night a week, then plan that out.
I had a client previously
who was bringing a very ill and demanding elder home to live with her and
her family. She and her family already felt strongly that they should
bring the elder into their home, and wanted to glean as much from the
experience as possible. At my suggestion, the parents took the teenage
children out to dinner, and they had a family planning meeting to hammer
out the details; who would be in charge of scheduling, who was to do what
chores, how to handle the daily stress, what to do when they felt
over-burdened, etc. Then we all sat down together to design a plan, and
ways that we would measure success, which I will discuss later. What a
blessing this family was about to have, and what a rare scenario this is!
- Nearby relatives. Again,
Don’t assume anything. Talk about their feelings about the move. If you
have any expectations at all such as; respite care from nearby family
members, financial assistance, assistance on days when the elder is ill,
etc., ask if they will be part of the team. Let them be honest. If they
are not in support of the move, for any reason-logical or not, let them
voice their opinion without judgment. You can never force support.
Sometime ago I had a client
who called, upset about her siblings general disregard about the care of
her mother, on any level. Understandably they lived in another state, and
they did not assist in emotional support or in decision making, even when
asked. Often in conversations about care plans and daily problems, they
pooh-poohed her concerns and feelings, dismissing them saying, she would
figure it out.
As in all families, there are many complicated issues and family dynamics,
but it was my belief that she was fortunate to be the main caregiver. It
was also my belief that, some day, she would be thankful and blessed by
having this opportunity. She recently called me to say, she really has
been the lucky one.
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Articles written by Gardner Riel, owner and founder of ElderLink.
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