Articles

    A Home Within A Home

    May 06,2015

    By Mary Lynn Pannen

    Creating Your Space To Adapt to Your Senior Parents

    According to AgingCare.com, 34 million Americans are personally providing care for older family members. As an aging society, more and more adult children are meeting the challenges of elder care by opening their homes to aging parents and in-laws. Whether it is for a holiday vacation, a short-term solution, or a long-term plan, here are a few important tips for making a home within a home, reducing conflicts, and setting expectations:

    1. Sacred Space: Make sure your elderly loved one has their own defined space. Much of the house will be common area, but it is a crucial part of autonomy to have your own sacred space that you have control over and can go into at any time.

    2. Personalize Space: Help your loved one feel at home by adding photos and objects that are special and important to them. Every space should tell the story of the individual living there. A few well-chosen objects such as a piece of art, a family quilt, or favorite books, can really redefine a room.

    3. Family Dynamics: Setting up ground rules, boundaries, and a schedule such as quiet hours, family dinners, and expectations of how spaces will be used is really important for navigating the transition. Especially if you are part of the sandwich generation and still have children at home, posting expectations will help them adjust to the changes.

    4. Meal Planning: Allow input and make sure expectations are set around food preparation including dietary restrictions. Setting expectations of who will be contributing financially will also help reduce stress and conflict later. Often tasks of daily living are difficult for aging adults to give up. Compromise and look for ways they can make decisions and contribute.

    5. Common Spaces: Set expectations for common areas such as laundry room, kitchen, TV room, garage, outdoor spaces. Placing simple instructions around the house on new appliances such as the washer/dryer or TV remote/ etc. can help orient an aging loved one to the new space.

    6. Safety: Making small changes to the home dramatically reduces the risk of falls and injury in the home. Consider the following modifications: Remove small area rugs, Install grab bars and anti-slip mats in the bathroom, make sure walkways are free from clutter, furniture arrangements should accommodate mobility devices, and repair outdoor areas with loose handrails or walkways that are uneven and cracking.

    7. In-Home Care & Care Management Services: Create a plan for increased care needs and relief care for adult children providing care and household management for loved ones. Often it is not apparent what the role will entail or feel like until you are in the middle of it. Make a plan if care becomes too much or if an emergency arises before you need it.

    8. Taxes: If your aging loved one is staying long-term, consult your tax advisor to ensure that you're taking advantage of appropriate tax deductions such as claiming a parent as a dependent or deducting other expenses related to care.

    9. Open Dialogue: Impacts on relationships and dynamics within the home are inevitable. Make sure that you have a regular family meeting to discuss concerns and questions with everyone living in the home. It is important that relationships with your own family members do not come at the expense of helping mom and dad.

    10. Asses Care Needs Regularly: Make sure that you plan for changes and discuss wishes and options before they are needed. It is crucial that you create a plan for difficult decisions such as driving, end-of-life care, and setting up a Durable Power of Attorney. Consider keeping a simple journal to track changes in behavior, habits, mobility, and other observations that may change over time.

    11. Storage: Discuss what will happen to items that will not be coming into the home. A combination of storage, purging, gifting, and donations can be important during any transition. Help a loved one choose a few items to have around them at any given time.

    12. Finances: This can be the most crucial aspect to discuss and set expectations for when considering moving a parent into your home. Discuss expectations of who will contribute to care costs and how finances will be managed. It can be very difficult to surrender control of finances to an adult child, but it may be necessary if bills are going unpaid or late.

    13. Dementia: If your loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's or other dementias it is crucial that you equip yourself with appropriate communication training and education to understand expectations of care. Close monitoring by a physician will be important for optimum safety for your loved one. Consider joining a support group and be open with your workplace about your changing responsibilities.

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