How to Cope With Elderly Parents Moving In

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There may come a time when you invite your aging parents or in-laws to move in with you. Although this arrangement can work very well, it can also be stressful for everyone involved.

  • Discuss everything in advance. Your parents are probably used to living independently in their own home, and it may be difficult for them to adjust to living under someone else's roof, with someone else's routines and expectations.

  • Talk about all the issues you can think of before they move in, create an atmosphere of mutual respect, and try to come to some compromises that will work for everyone in the family.

  • Clearly establish the "house rules" as tactfully as possible, and agree on each person's responsibilities and limits within the home. Each family has its own identity, and the addition of elder parents to the formula can often disrupt family harmony for a while, even when it's handled with great care and sensitivity.

  • Consider your children, if they still live at home. When Grandma and Grandpa move in, it can be a difficult adjustment for kids and teens, so set some boundaries that everyone can live with. Your children need to be considerate of their grandparents, but the grandparents also need to step back and let you discipline your own children when necessary.

  • Make sure everyone has some privacy. This may mean adding a separate suite to your home, installing an extra bathroom or even just rearranging your home slightly. Even though your parents no longer live in their own home, they'll still want some space of their own and some private time to themselves.

  • Figure out what goes where. This may sound obvious, but it can be tricky. Your parents have been surrounded by their own furniture and possessions for many years, but your house is almost certainly not big enough for two sets of furnishings. Perhaps some things can be sold, given to relatives or put into storage.

  • Work out a budget. Will your parents be contributing some of their pension money to cover household expenses, or will you be paying for everything? Never make assumptions, especially when it comes to finances. Discuss the situation ahead of time.

  • Let your parents help around the house if they want to and are physically able to. Many seniors connect their sense of self-worth with their "usefulness," and it can be difficult emotionally if most or all of their daily tasks are taken over by someone else.

  • Encourage your parents to maintain their independence and to stay active. This will benefit their physical and emotional health.

  • Be patient - it can take a while for the rhythms of the household to re-establish themselves after such a big change.

Tips & Warnings

  • Try to hold regular family conferences so that everyone can talk about issues or problems that may come up. It's often much easier to discuss awkward subjects when everyone is together and in the mood to talk.
  • If your parents have health problems, set up an emergency contact system and make sure everyone knows what it is. This could be a buzzer or bellpull in the bedroom or shower, or a cordless phone preprogrammed with your cell phone or pager number.
  • Consider safety issues for children and seniors living in the same house. Make sure your parents don't leave medications or nonchildproof bottles within reach of little ones, and make sure your kids don't leave toys on the stairs or puddles of water on the floor.
  • Elder care can take a lot of time and energy, so make sure you still take some quality time for yourself, and for your spouse and children. If you begin to feel overwhelmed by your family responsibilities, arrange for some outside help or respite, or find a caregivers support group in your area.
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