You’re doing amazing good stuff, not to mention putting forth a lot of positive karma when you invite your senior parent to move in with you. I have expertise in this topic since my 88-year old mother has been living with me for several years. I think everyone hopes for:
A new-found closeness, as mom or dad is now in regular, physical contact.
The chance for a parent to become part of your family’s routines, creating a new kind of memories—fresh ones to add to your childhood experiences.
The opportunity to help your mother or father enjoy new things and have a broader horizon, such as email, grandchildren’s sports and activities, new foods, and local attractions, such as parks and museums.
The joy (and relief) of making life easier for mom or dad, along with feeling more confident about safety matters.
These are all good things. However, such a change for you and your parent requires some (or a lot of) adjustment. There may be rough spots, issues, or situations that make one or both of you wonder if this was the right plan. Here are some things to consider, gleaned from my experience:
Minding personal space is of particular importance if your mother or father lived alone before joining you in your home. What’s ideal is an informally defined separate area. If possible, your loved one should have a private bedroom and bathroom. Beyond that, mom or dad may want a dedicated kitchen cupboard or storage spot in the basement. My mother even has a personal microwave oven!
Plus, we bought inexpensive “Do Not Disturb” doorknob signs, and everyone uses them and respects them. Establish a knock-before-entering house rule, if you’re not already using one. When in doubt—ask. For example, “Dad, would you prefer some privacy for a while?”
Make separate times
Speaking of privacy, be sure to respect it. Even pay attention to arranging and scheduling family events or gatherings. Your mother or father may want to participate in everything, a handful of get-togethers, or nearly none of your activities. I’ve learned from experience that it helps to give gentle nudges, especially if mom or dad feels that they might not fit in, be extra work, or in some other way reduce the overall fun.
However, I don’t believe that you should ever push your parent. “Alone time” might be something they need; it’s something that can be nourishing for anyone.
Value golden experience
Remember that your parent likely has a lifetime of know-how. When Mom or Dad suggests a solution or strategy, be sure to consider it. Let them know that their suggestions are valuable and that you respect those ideas.
Many times, this is a learning experience for everyone and a confidence builder for your parent. Younger children can benefit from different perspectives.
Probably none of us likes being told what to do. Depending on the cognitive abilities of your parent, this is likely true for them. Putting aside Alzheimer’s and other conditions that impact memory and mental abilities, your parent is an experienced adult.
I’ve found that it doesn’t help to try to tell Mom what she should do. She wants to be independent and make decisions on her own. It’s essential in all but extreme situations to let her do so. Wrong choices, unless they impact health, safety, or finances, are probably OK. They will likely sit better with your parent than anything you impose.
Whether by choice, necessity, or a combination, asking a parent to join your household no small matter. There will be adjustments for you and your family. But the lion’s share of the adjusting and work will need to be done by Mom or Dad. There are new patterns, new schedules, different and more people, new neighbors, new friends to make, new activities to discover, new stores, a new barber or hair stylist, new pharmacies, and new doctors.
My mother had two top concerns—the doctor and the hairstylist. She has her priorities right!
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This article intends to provide a bit of practical thought. There isn’t one set of guidelines that will apply in all situations. This article does not attempt to provide a panacea. Individuals contemplating substantial, personal decisions should seek the advice of a professional, such as an attorney, career counselor, psychologist, or other. The opinions here are those exclusively of My Ink Shines Limited Liability Corporation.
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