Sometimes, as caregivers of elderly parents, you’re faced with making big decisions that will affect your entire family such as moving your elderly parents or in-laws into your home.
An elderly parent moving in, especially one with health challenges, will change the dynamic and routines of the household.
When parents are living with adult children everyone in the family will have to undergo a period of adjustment including the smallest members of your family. Your children (their grandchildren) may find it more difficult to adjust or understand why grandma and/or grandpa now live in their home.
Here are some tips you can use to help your child adapt to having grandparents living with the family.
Tell your child(ren) ahead of time
Children can have a hard time adjusting to changes in the family dynamic because they have the least amount of control over the situation.
Tell your child or children well ahead of time, in terms that they can understand, that their grandparent(s) will be living with the family. Help them to understand that their grandparents need to live in your home so you can help them recover from an illness or to make it easier for you and the family to provide better care for them.
Positivity is the key to acceptance
Try to stay positive when caring for elderly grandparents at home. Kids pick up on negativity and may project your own feelings, actions, and words back to their grandparents.
Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of caring for your elderly parents at home, think of how this experience will be a positive one for your kids.
Having grandma and/or grandpa around will teach your kids to appreciate the older generation and be less afraid of wheelchairs, walkers, and other items often associated with aging. Seeing your positive attitude can help your children grow more accepting and more comfortable with being around adults of all ages, and teach them to be more compassionate towards people with health challenges.
Roll out the welcome wagon
Grandparents living with family can be an amazing experience for children. Asking your child to participate in preparing their grandparents’ room will help your child feel involved in the process, and give them something to brag about once their grandparents move in.
Younger children can be given one element of the room to be “in charge of,” such as painting or drawing a picture that can be displayed in the room.
If your child is older, they can help pick out a paint colour for their grandparents’ room, make the bed, prepare a special snack or meal for their grandparents, or even give their grandparents a “tour” of their new home.
Dealing with health issues in age-appropriate ways
If your elderly parent is moving in because of ongoing health issues, seeing the medical equipment and various members of the home health care team in your house may cause your child to feel scared and confused. After all, this may be a side of their grandparent that they’ve never seen before.
Explain to your child that the equipment and visiting health care team are there to help grandma or grandpa feel better. If you need help telling your child about their grandparent’s condition or illness, there are picture books written in simple, age-appropriate language that you can find in your local library or bookstore.
Grandparents living with grandchildren can be very enriching for both but ongoing health issues may keep an elderly person bedridden or robbed of the energy they need to keep up with a young child. Knowing about these issues can help your child understand why grandma or grandpa can’t play with them for very long, or even at all.
If this is your situation, try to limit “visiting hours” with grandma or grandpa to 15 minutes at a time, and stay in the room so you can remove your child if their grandparent isn’t feeling well enough that day for a visit. See also, our Elizz article on Tips for Supporting Good Health in Seniors.
Bonding with grandparents
If you are caring for an elderly grandparent at home and they don’t have any major health concerns, encourage them to establish a special time for them to spend with their grandchild. Whether it’s playing a board game, or taking a walk in the park, or reading a book, this special time together will help your child see that this new living situation is a good thing.
Our Elizz article on Holiday Activities for Seniors and Kids has some wonderful suggestions for quality time together during the Christmas season or any time of the year.
The time a grandparent spends with their grandchild is special and, for some, fleeting. Remember to take lots of pictures so that in later years you and your child can look back at those special moments fondly.
Bonding with your child
While you’re busy trying to adjust to caring for elderly parents (or in-laws) at home, your child may be struggling to adapt to the new living situation as well.
Take some time each day to connect with your child, whether you’re simply asking about their day during snack time, or playing a board game. This time with you will assure them that their place in the family will always be intact, and you may also find stress-relieving benefits during this downtime as well.
Creating a personal space
An elderly parent moving in adds another person to the household and can be a huge adjustment for everyone, particularly if a child had to give up their bedroom for that person to stay there.
Giving up their room may be necessary but you can try to give them back a little of what they lost by designating a small area in another part of the house as “theirs.” A reading nook, a play area in the family room, or a desk in a quiet part of the house are relatively easy ideas to set up and personalize with their favourite colours, pictures, or collectibles.
Getting used to the new normal
An elderly parent moving in, especially one with health challenges, will change the dynamic and routines of the household. Explain to your child or children that this is the new normal for your family now, and that it’s okay to talk to you about anything they’re not sure about regarding the new living situation.
Caring for elderly grandparents at home brings new challenges for you and your kids but whatever caregiving challenges you face, Elizz is here to help.
Call 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549) to order home care services for the elderly person you’re taking care of, or to connect with a Caregiver Coach.