We hear a lot about blended families these days but with an aging population set to double over the next four decades, merging families will increasingly include elderly parents. Adjusting to another person in any household can present challenges and place stress on a marriage and other family relationships.
Most often women are the primary caregivers of both children and aging parents or other loved-ones and just when the kids may becoming more independent (and more defiant) in their teen years, mothers can find themselves right back to where they starting in the caring game.
Serious health issues or dementia can make having an aging parent living with their adult children a struggle to say the least. Guilt or a sense of duty is nearly always a part of the complex adult child/parent relationship but they alone should not guide decision making about permanent living arrangements.
It’s important to look five, ten or even fifteen years down the road when considering moving grandma or grandpa in with their adult children. Try to step outside the situation and consider all its implications:
- Will caregiver(s) have support and a chance for a break or travel?
- What impact will this change have on career and caregivers’ health?
- Who will carry out most of the care giving?
- Will extended family help or offer respite?
- How will expenses be shared?
- Do schedules mesh well – if grandpa likes to rise very early and blast the news will that be a problem?
- Is there another alternative such as renting a nearby apartment?
- Will the social and spiritual needs of the older adult be met? Would a retirement community be a better fit?
- Do personalities clash? Will there be constant turmoil?
- Is the current home accessible or will there need to be renovations?
Don’t make any permanent decisions until you have looked at the situation from all angles and be sure to include seniors and other siblings or close family in the decision-making process. Don’t assume elderly parents want to live with you; being dependent on family for care and social interaction can leave seniors feeling isolated or helpless and can contribute to depression.
Most of all don’t let outside or peer pressure force you into a decision that may backfire. You may find that by taking emotion out of the process, everyone can better care for their aging parents in a way that will keep relationships healthy without straining budgets or other resources.