Should Mom or Dad move in with me?

January 14, 2011

As our population ages, more and more adult children are faced with decisions about where their parents should live if they are no longer able to live by themselves.  It may be that the parent does not yet need a nursing home, which might be covered by Medicaid, but has no money for assisted living.  It may be that the child wants to care for the parent at home.  Whatever the reason, if you are considering this, you need to look at the situation from all sides, count the cost, and then make your decision.  In some cases, the decision may be forced upon you.  What do you do in these situations?

If you have a choice about moving your parent into your home, you need to consider the  changes this will make in your life:

  1. Can your parent stay at home by himself?  If not, will there be money enough to pay for sitters or daycare?  If not, will your family be able to take shifts staying at home?
  2. How do you get along with your parent?  How well does your spouse get along with your parent?  If you and / or your spouse do not get along well with your parent, you should investigate other options.
  3. What level of care does your parent need?  Is it a level of care you are willing and able to give?
  4. What will the financial ramifications be for your family long-term?  Your parent may be able to stay by himself now, but chances are that will change.  Will you or your spouse be able to stay at home full time with him or afford other options?
  5. If you have a spouse, is he/she willing to partner in this care?  What affect will it have on your marriage?
  6. What about your children?  Will the presence in your home of a grandparent requiring full time care curtail their ability to have a life outside home and school? I have a friend whose grandmother lived in their home.  Her mother never came to any of her school functions, because she was at home with my friend’s grandmother.  Additionally, my friend could never go anywhere unless someone else could take her, because her mother was at home with her grandmother.

All these questions may sound selfish, but they are realities that should be considered.  When both spouses are not fully invested in caregiving, it can cause friction, increasing distance and resentment as one spouse is engulfed by the sheer enormity of the caregiving task.  This is also true with the children.

If you do decide to move your parent into your home, consider doing the following things to keep your relationship with your spouse and children healthy:

  1. Before your parent moves in, have a family meeting in which you discuss all the issues mentioned in this blog and others you may have.  If your parent is mentally able to participate, involve him/her.  Set parameters, boundaries and rules in writing, so things are clear to everyone.  It’s much easier to do it in advance, than to deal with the hurt feelings and other ramifications later!
  2. Set a standing date night with your spouse at least once a month.  Make sure your relationship and your marriage isn’t sacrificed to the task of caregiving.
  3. Make time for each child every day.
  4. Involve the entire family in specific caregiving tasks.  Set a schedule so each family member knows what his/her duties are.
  5. If at all possible, schedule vacation time away from your parent while he/she stays with another family member, a paid caregiver or in an in-patient facility which offers respite care.  Caregiving is a 24/7 job.  The entire family will need time off.
  6. If you have siblings, consider a shared arrangement for caregiving.  In one family I know, the elderly mother with dementia lives with each of her three children for four months a year.  Everyone takes a turn.  Everyone gets a break.  Everyone knows what’s expected. The only issue is the confusing transition from home to home for the first week or two the parent is staying with each child.
  7. Keep the humor in caregiving!  Laughter will keep your entire family sane.  It is one of the only real defenses we have against the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease.

I have seen families in caregiving situations where a family member finds out what the expectations are ONLY when he/she fails to meet them, and the expectations are a moving target anyway.  Delineating them (preferably in writing) is the way to prevent this from happening, in so much as it is possible.

What has worked for you?

2 Comments

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2 Responses to “Should Mom or Dad move in with me?”

  1. Carebuzz says:

    When I think back on my Dad’s care, it’s still very hard for me to accept that we made the right decision… nursing home. It was tragic for him and I feel that is what started his rapid decline. It still saddens me even after 6 years! This is one of the most impt. topics in family caregiving that cannot be taken lightly. The decision to move an aging loved one in or to a facility is very, very hard. I’ll never be able to forget how hard it was on Dad. I’m just grateful that I don’t have to go down the “decision” path again.

    Thank you,
    Carol

    • ellen says:

      Between my husband’s family and mine, we have been responsible for loved ones who have been in 15 different dementia facilities. I remember particularly placing my grandmother in a nursing home. It was just awful. With Alzheimer’s disease, you are given a group of bad choices from which to choose — in-patient care, home care with family, home care with sitters, etc. I grieve for the families still making these gut-wrenching choices and I grieve for you as you continue to mourn your dad. Thanks so much for your comments.

      Ellen

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