Sunday, January 15, 2006

living with one's children

It may become undesirable for older individuals to live by themselves. One option is living with one's children or other family members. Sometimes this is the only alternative that is financially feasible.
Though adult children and their parents may have an amicable relationship, living together again may present numerous difficulties and adjustments. One of the major problems is that some parents can never seem to acknowledge that their children are adults and they continue to try to exert control in the child's life. The older adult may have difficulty adjusting to the fact that their child is the one now responsible for their care and well-being.
Another problem may be caused by the simple increase in the number of people expected to share the same space. It is essential that all those involved in the new living arrangement discuss and plan in advance whatever changes may be needed in their day-to-day routine.
Criteria that must be considered include:
1. Space available for all family members
2. If family members are compatible
3. Changes necessary to make the house accessible, such as grab bars in the bathrooms or handrails on the stairs
4. Necessary care available
5. All family members agreeable
6. The elderly person's financial contribution
7. Discipline the older person will have over the younger children or teenagers
The most ideal situation is for the older person to have his or her own room or suite. If possible, a bedroom with an adjoining bathroom can allow privacy and some independent living.
It is important to establish clear ground rules in advance to lessen conflicts between family members, especially in the area of authority. A grandparent may not approve of the hours a grandchild keeps but he or she can not reprimand him or her. A television set in the elder parent's bedroom need not mean he or she is expected to do all TV viewing there. And what about meal preparation and household chores? Is everyone expected to help? Unless such matters are discussed honestly and at the time they first come up they can mushroom into major disagreements.
Modifications may have to be made in the physical layout of the home. For example, ramps may have to be built at the entrances. Doorways may have to be widened to accommodate wheelchairs. If the older person can use a telephone one could be installed in the bedroom. Perhaps a hospital-type bed would be more practical. Various furniture and equipment is available for rental or purchase through hospital equipment firms. Many times it becomes necessary for an occupational therapist or social worker to help assess the home and make suggestions on necessary modifications.
When providing health care in the home, accidents must be expected. No matter what preventive measure are taken older people still fall and break bones. The older person may not make it to the bathroom in time. It is necessary to be prepared to deal with damp and stained rugs and upholstery. If a wheelchair is being used, expect nicks and scratches on furniture, walls, and door frames. Providing a loving and caring environment for loved ones is usually worth these minor inconveniences. Day-care centers are now being offered for older people. Supervised activities, such as games, crafts, field trips shopping sprees, programs, music, conversation, and exercise are held throughout the day. A hot, well-balanced meal is served at noon and assistance with taking medications and going to the restroom are offered. The purpose of the day-care facilities is to provide a safe and stimulating place for the older person to spend the day. This may be an appropriate alternative for families who work but want the older person to live with them. Try to complete as many of the preparations as possible prior to the arrival of the parent. Older people who need to move in with adult children often feel they are intruding and feel guilty about upsetting their children's lives. If they witness a lot of changes because of them they may feel as if they are a burden and become more depressed.
All involved must understand that they are beginning a new lifestyle. Life is going to be different for everyone and feelings of anxiety and apprehension are to be expected. But with mutual respect, understanding, and love it can be a pleasant and rewarding experience.
Deedy, J. Your Aging Parents. Chicago: The Thomas More Press, 1984.
Gillies, J. A Guide to Caring for and Coping with Aging Parents. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981.
Home, J. Caregiving: Helping an Aged Loved One. Glenview, Ill.: Scott Foresman, 1985.


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