I have the honor of sharing a home with my father. In fact, I share a home with my husband, two teen girls, two cats, two pigs, two milk cows, 20 something chickens, and my father. We have a busy life. And, inviting my dad to join our world added chaos and joy. There were a few moments of rockiness, but all-in-all our blended, busy family is humming along nicely. We learned lessons along the way. And, I have many years of experince helping adult children living with an ageing parent. These lessons come from my own experience and the experiences of hundreds of other successful family caregivers.
Make Sure the Buyin is There
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is creating lots of plans before getting their ageing loved one involved. I completely understand the appeal of reaching out to providers, compiling information, talking with siblings, visiting with contractors, and fully formulating a plan before presenting it to your loved one. Here is the problem – unless your loved one is unable to make decisions – the planning activity is part of the acceptance process. In an effort to ease the decision making process for your loved one, you want to present all the options in a clear well thought out way. But, you take the control out of the hands of your loved one and skip straight to check yes or no. Where is the courtship? Living with an ageing parent is often a matter of necessity, but that doesn’t mean it should feel plug and play to your loved one.
The second biggest buyin block I see is with siblings. You know your loved one needs much more care than she is currently getting. She has firmly said she doesn’t want to move to an assisted living community. It only makes sense to move her in with you! Well, maybe your siblings have other ideas. Even if your siblings can’t possibly care for your mom the way you can, your siblings may still insist on implementing their own care ideas. While not every family has a long history of open communication, working together to create a move-in plan often saves drama and hurt feelings later. Try to get siblings and other important family members into the conversation early. One great way to create buyin is to assign every member a job. For instance, since you plan to host your loved one in your home, maybe a sibling who is out of the area can interview and locate a moving company to help. Or an out of area sibling can offer to manage bill pay and document signing. Work together to make living with an ageing parent easier for everyone!
Don’t Hide Important Information
Usually living with an ageing parent is the most cost effective, comprehensive option a family can choose. Make sure you have a very clear understanding of your loved ones financial situation and what if any financial contribution you expect. Consider this information a family topic so no one feels slighted or cheated. Make sure to discuss future plans that might affect the living situation of your loved one like a home sell. When you lay your cards on the table, fewer opportunities for miscommunication exist.
Take a Realistic Look at Your Set Up
You will need to look at the current and future needs of your loved one. While she may be able to get up stairs now, will she be able to handle them in 6 months or a year? What kinds of home modifications will you need to make to properly care for your loved one? Can you afford the emotional and physical output your loved one may require? Have you realistically considered how hard it is to care for someone 24 hours a day? You want to consider long term plans before you make important life changes. You can always relocate your loved one to an assisted living facility later. But, moving can be hard on senior adults, especially those with memory impairment.
Create a Plan of Care
As the owner of a home care agency, Green Tree Home Care I have seen the positive impact of great care planning. We always create a plan of care for every client. We do this to make sure support systems are in place, current and anticipated needs are met, and everyone is on the same page. When you are living with an ageing parent, it is import to write down all the care needs. If your loved one needs 24 hour care or cannot be left alone, you will want to include a plan for respite care. Often adult children living with an ageing parent will call us for care support while they work. Or, they will request a caregiver on the weekends so they can go out with friends and other family. The most successful family caregivers plan for personal time, and make it part of the plan of care. If your loved one has trouble walking, you may want to include a physical therapist or personal trainer into your care plan. You can also utilize services like meals on wheels, home visit doctors, and mobile dentists. Speak with medical professionals about what resources you might want to include.
Host Family Meetings
As the condition of your loved one changes you will want to keep family members in the loop. With your loved one’s permission, invite family members to weigh in on concerns and decisions on a regular basis. These meetings will give you a focused time to share your hands on experiences. Family meetings are great for assigning new jobs, planning for upcoming care needs, and asking for more help. I often notice family caregivers are like frogs in hot water. They will continue to provide care alone as the needs increase. They keep going until, nearly exhausted, they realize the world is boiling around them. Family meetings allow siblings outside the gradual day-to-day changes to offer support when you might not know you need it!
When you are living with an ageing parent there are lots of responsibilities you assume. By getting everyone’s buyin, communicating honestly, assessing your setup, creating a care plan, and hosting family meetings you will create a collaborative environment for everyone!