Tips and resources to help you throughout your caregiving journey

Adult children and aging parents living together: 7 tips to make it work

Some adult children and their parents are considering living together as the best way to manage the present and future care needs of aging parents. If this consideration 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. You may benefit from some tips that can guide your planning and conversations towards a successful transition.

7 tips for a successful transition

1.Heal your relationship

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 (which is not likely possible anyway during these pandemic times!)

You may want to see a counsellor to help you heal old wounds and hurts and work on healthy communication and dynamics. If you feel in your heart of hearts that living together is going to end badly, then it may be wiser to come up with an alternate plan.

2. Deal with finances head on

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.

3.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.

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.

4.Prepare for some role changes

You may also feel a change in roles during this transition. There may be the additional responsibility of caring for your parents/in-laws. You may also expect your children to take on more responsibility. Ideally, the tasks related to both caregiving and managing the household are shared by family members. 

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.

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.  

5.Develop a care needs plan

Care needs are likely to change over time. Think ahead about some of these care needs.

What will happen, for example, 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 your need to be transferred to an assisted-living facility such as a long-term care home for around the clock nursing care?

All of this is part of advance care planning and it is best discussed as early in the caregiving journey as possible. Continue this conversation as necessary and as care needs change.

6.Work on concrete plan for some balance

Develop a concrete plan on how you are going to balance your caregiving with the rest of your life and your other relationships (including the one with yourself).

7.Make the benefits explicit

This 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.  Gather everyone together and have them say what is positive about this decision to live together, or what makes this a good idea.

It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and lollipops, Include concrete and practical ways in which living together benefits each of you. Write these benefits down and re-read them during any rocky moments.

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