So, you and your parents/in-laws have decided that moving them into your home is the best way to manage the present and future care needs.
Are everyone’s eyes open? Wide open? Has the possible impact on all involved/affected been considered and discussed? The financial details? The level and amount of care needed? The future and when/if care needs increase? The adjustments needed in your home? The compromises? Expectations? Hopes? Worst fears? Ways to talk about and resolve inevitable conflicts and tensions?
If considering this move isn’t based on a crisis, the best way for it to be a good idea that works for everyone and not one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” laments, is thoughtful planning with honest and open conversations. Addressing issues, like finances, in advance can help pave the way to a successful transition. Here are some tips to guide your conversations.
Tips for a Successful Transition
Heal Your Relationship
This may seem obvious but one of the best predictors on whether this will work to everyone’s satisfaction is the quality of your relationship with your parents and other family members. If there are past hurts, resentments, sibling rivalry, poor communication patterns, and unresolved issues from the past, they will likely rise up faster than it would take to book a year-long vacation halfway across the world. This can be tough to do on your own so you may want to see a counsellor to help you heal old wounds and unhealthy dynamics. If you feel in your heart of hearts that moving in is going to end badly, then it may be wiser to come up with an alternate plan.
With additional people, comes additional costs. For example, there will be additional costs related to things such as renovations and groceries as well as utilities including, hydro and water bills. Who will pay for this? Are your parents going to pay for rent or contribute beyond the additional expenses? Are there other siblings who can or will contribute financially? It is a good idea to have this written down and expenses documented to avoid misunderstandings. Some people go to a financial advisor or lawyer to work out financial details.
Expect an Adjustment Period
Even with arms wide open, this is still a major transition for everyone and you can expect that there will likely be a range of emotional reactions. For your parents/in-laws, there is some loss of independence, control, and privacy. For you and the rest of your family, there is also some loss of privacy in addition to changes in familiar routines and schedules. If you have a partner/spouse, you have to adjust to another set of eyes and ears that are witnessing (and maybe even commenting on) how you relate to one another. And if there are children at home, they are also adjusting to new routines and perhaps a loss of space or attention. Literally everyone in the household will already have established ways of doing things and this is going to be disrupted. How can all of this be managed? First off, expect this adjustment and talk about it openly. Ideally, everyone will have the opportunity to say what they feel they need for this to work. Patience, flexibility, and compromises will go a long way. It is also wise to expect some tensions, conflict, and stress with the adjustment, and have a plan on how to deal with this so that if (when!) it happens, it can be dealt with in the most calm and respectful way.
You may also feel a change in roles during this transition. There is not only the additional responsibility of caring for your parents/in-laws but also, if you have children, you may ask them to take on more responsibility. Ideally, the tasks related to both caregiving and managing the household are shared. Perhaps your parents/in-laws are willing to prepare or even cook meals, help with homework, or accompany children to extracurricular activities. Children may be willing to help with small household tasks such as tidying or pairing laundered socks. Older children may also be able to assist in caregiving tasks like driving to appointments or doing groceries. Despite all of these changes to your role as the primary caregiver, it will be important to draw on strengths within the household to accomplish what needs to be done. Consider a chore chart or weekly schedule posted in a public area within the house that will assist in dividing household and caregiving tasks and keep everyone accountable.
It will be worthwhile to have a plan for when care needs change. For example, what will happen if your parent requires increased support and assistance with daily activities such as bathing, eating, or dressing? Will it be possible to have outside help from PSWs and nurses in the home? Are you willing to make modifications to your existing bathroom(s) and bedroom(s) to accommodate the care needs? Or, will the person need to be transferred to an assisted-living facility such as a long-term care home for around the clock nursing care? This is part of advance care planning and it is best discussed as early in the caregiving journey as possible. It is important to have a conversation where your concerns and your parents/in-laws wishes are considered. It is also important to continue this conversation as necessary and as care needs change.
You will likely also need a concrete plan on how you are going to balance your caregiving with the rest of your life and your other relationships. How can you nurture yourself and your relationships with your partner/spouse and/or children?
Making the Benefits Explicit
Having your parents/in-laws move in with you can be a rewarding experience that deepens relationships throughout the household. Cherish is not too strong a word to use in terms of how this time together could be viewed. It would be great to gather everyone together and have them say what is positive about this move, or what makes this a good idea. It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and lollipops, it can include concrete and practical ways in which your parents/in-laws moving in benefits each of you. Consider writing these down and re-reading them during any rocky moments.