There’s loads of great aspects to having an elderly parent move in with you: a chance for your children to bond with their grandparents, an extra pair of hands around the house and an opportunity to repay the sacrifices they made for you when, in childhood, you were unable to look after yourself.
But, if it’s not carefully thought through, what initially might seem like the less expensive, more traditional and caring alternative to a retirement home can turn into a situation that’s not comfortable for anyone – least of all your mother or father. So, think thoroughly about the changes that you and your parent are going to have to make to co-habit happily.
There are, of course, financial concerns to be taken into consideration: though the addition of their pension to the household income might offset expenses, there are hidden costs to having an extra person living with you. Electricity and water bills will of course be higher, and things like home insurance might be more expensive; it’s worth trying and project a year’s incomings and outgoings factoring in everything so you know what to expect. And remember, even if it looks impossible, you might be able to apply for a carer’s grant.
Also, there’s the question of what you’re going to do with their possessions: though they might be open to selling some on or putting things in storage, it’s likely they’ll want to bring a few of their most treasured pieces of furniture or trinkets to personalize the space you’re providing for them. This means you’ll need room and understanding: it might be harder than you think to relinquish control over your décor but having their own things around them will make your parents much more at ease.
At a more basic level, you need to think about your house’s layout in relation to what your parent can manage: they might find stairs challenging and are likely to feel the cold more than the younger members of your household. They’ll probably also want a bathroom on the same floor as their bedroom, so they can easily access it at night; think about how big it needs to be in order for them to manoeuvre about in.
Of course, if your parent has Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, your problem is infinitely more complex but still, not impossible: you need to make sure that locks are placed on your front, back and kitchen door, as well as carefully check the house for anything that might hurt them.
A ground-floor bedroom might be best for access, but does it mean they’ll find it easier to wander off if a door is left open? A balance needs to be struck between their private needs and the provision of care they require. Don’t forget it works both ways, too: you’ll need a good level of privacy for yourself and space to unwind. Think about getting an extra television for your bedroom so you can watch separate programs and take into consideration how you’re going to organize social time with friends.
Finally, remember that they as well as you are used to living more independently, so any frustrations you feel are likely to run both ways. Encourage them to explore other interests now you’ve removed some of the burden from their living arrangements. Community centres, sports clubs and schools all offer courses and activities for seniors, so make sure that they’re making the most of their time with you and you’re both enjoying your precious moments together.