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9 Tips for Living with Elderly Parents

Living with your elderly parents is often the most convenient and most financially responsible caregiving scenario — but it does come with its own drawbacks. Here are nine tips to help you decide if moving your parents in with you is the right move, and how to live together harmoniously once you’re all under the same roof.

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Help them maintain independence.

Some adult children try to swoop in and take over as many tasks from their aging parents as possible, even if their parents are still more than capable on their own. If you tend to be a helicopter caregiver, resist the urge to hover and try to let your parents maintain independence as long as possible. Ask instead of assuming that they need your help with something, and seek out solutions like adaptive clothing for seniors that allow them to continue dressing themselves and participate in daily activities.

Think carefully before you commit.

When adult children decide to move their parents into their house, they are often focused only on the positives: saving money, eliminating long drives and keeping an eye on their parents. However, it’s important to also understand the potential drawbacks of living with your parents, such as loss of privacy and changes in the parent/child relationship. By being realistic with yourself about how things will change, you can prepare to mitigate these potential drawbacks.

Be realistic about caregiving duties.

Another thing that you need to be honest with yourself about is what caregiving duties will be required and whether or not you are prepared to do them. Some people are uncomfortable helping their parents take a shower or use the bathroom, for instance. In some cases, you may be able to ask another family member to take care of it, or hire a home health aide to come in once or twice a week. But if your parents need help with a lot of caregiving duties that you’re not prepared to take on, then you might want to look into an assisted living facility instead.

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Get them involved as much as possible.

Many adult children decide to live with their aging parents because they are worried about them becoming isolated and lonely. To help them socialize, encourage them to participate in family activities as much as possible, even if it’s just sitting at the dining room table and talking while the rest of the family cooks together. Try to do activities they can participate in — such as putting together a puzzle — a couple of times a week, and invite their friends over to join if possible.

Make your home accessible.

Unfortunately, most homes aren’t designed with the elderly in mind, so you might need to make some adjustments to make your house safe for your elderly parents. Sometimes the fixes are simple, such as encouraging them to wear slippers for men inside the house and switching round door knobs to lever-style ones that are easier for arthritic hands. Some of them may be more involved, such as installing a stairlift to the second floor. Crunch the numbers beforehand and be realistic about how much money you can spend.

Accept what you can’t change.

Moving your parents in with you won’t magically erase their health problems, reverse their dementia or make them happy. Try not to take things personally when this happens or to see it as a reflection of your work as a caregiver. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t change, focus on what you can control. You can’t make your parents healthy and happy, but you can make sure that they eat three healthy meals a day and have clean nightgowns for women to wear every night.

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Take care of yourself.

You can’t take care of your aging parents until you take care of yourself first. Make sure that you’re staying on top of your own health, keeping up with doctors’ appointments, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. You may also find it helpful to speak to a professional therapist, especially one who has experience working with clients who are caregivers for aging parents. Check yourself periodically for warning signs of caregiver burnout and seek out help when you start to feel overwhelmed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Speaking of asking for help, this can take many forms, not just hiring a caregiver to come in a couple days a week (although that is definitely an option!). You can ask one of your siblings to help out for a while, or your spouse to take care of other household tasks that you normally do, such as grocery shopping or picking up the kids from school. You can even get your kids involved by asking them to do more chores around the house as they get older. You don’t have to shoulder this burden alone, so don’t be afraid to ask others to pitch in.

Reevaluate your situation periodically.

Just because it’s a good idea for your parents to live with you now doesn’t mean that things will remain the same forever. Check in with yourself, your parents and your spouse on a regular basis to see if you need to make any changes. At some point, your parents’ needs may get to the point where you can no longer provide adequate care for them and you need to consider moving them to an assisted living facility — and that’s okay! Be honest with yourself and with each other and be prepared to make changes as the situation demands it.

Are you currently living with your elderly parents, or just thinking about moving them in with you? What are your other top tips for living harmoniously with aging parents? Let us know in the comments below!