At some point, it may become necessary to open the doors of your home and invite your aging parents to move in; whether they've suffered a stroke, trip or fall accident, other health issue or if old age has simply made it impossible for them to live alone, family members need to have a plan in place.
Being prepared to take care of your parents...
Whether your aging relatives will move into an assisted living facility or in with a family member, discussions should begin before the need arises avoiding the stress that comes with making difficult decisions in a time of crisis.
If your aging parents have the resources to move into an assisted living or retirement community, that may be the least stressful option for all involved. If, however, they don't have the resources to pay for that level of care, the decision must be made on whether they can continue to age in place or whether they will move into the home of one of their children. Moving in with a family member would potentially free up resources that could be used to pay for a part time caregiver.
No matter how much you love and get along with your elderly parents, moving them into your family home changes the dynamic. If their health is failing, you may need to make decisions on who the primary caregiver will be and will need to involve siblings in their daily care. Caregiver stress and isolation is amplified once you've moved your aging loved one into your home as it may seem as though there is no escape, depending on your age, you could be holding down a job, raising your own children, and now you're the primary caregiver for your elderly parents; you may fall into what's called the Sandwich Generation.
Consider too, that your aging parent may not want to be a burden on the family and they may balk at the idea of moving into your home. If you're being thrust into the role of caregiver, and have no medical knowledge or background, you may feel apprehensive at the idea of caring for an aging parent.
Just as you had to baby proof your home when you had children, you will need to age proof the home if your aging parents move in. Here are some areas that will need to be addressed to make certain the home is safe for an aging individual:
- Prevent falls in every room of the house beginning with the bathroom because this is the most dangerous room for the elderly. Install grip rails and non-skid strips in the bathtub and shower. Make certain the rugs are tacked down or are non-skid styles. If possible install an elevated toilet seat or install toilet seat arm rests to make it easier for them to get up and down.
- Check the house for trip and fall hazards. Move obstacles out of the line of traffic by rearranging furniture. Make certain that long hallways are lighted either through the use of motion sensor nightlights or lights that turn on when the ambient light is low enough. Again, check that rugs are backed with non slip strips and that power cords are stowed out of the way.
- If the home has steps, you may need to install a ramp to make it easier for your relative to navigate. Moving your elderly relative into a first floor room is the best idea, but if that's not possible you may need to install a chair lift to get from the first floor to the bedroom. If they use a walker your doorways will need to be wide enough to accommodate it.
- Chair lifts for couches or recliners will make it easier for your relatives to get on and off the furniture.
- Home medical alert equipment provides peace of mind for your relative and for you, as the caregiver. A medical alert device allows the caregiver to feel more comfortable and confident of leaving the home and leaving their parent alone because they can rest assured that in the event of a trip or fall or medical emergency their relative can summon medical assistance at the push of a button.
- Make the bedroom that your parents will move into a welcoming spot. If the room is large enough move in a chair so they don't feel they have to sit on the bed to watch television. Speaking of televisions, provide them with their own, this gives them the option of watching shows they enjoy and also gives you and your family privacy to watch your own shows. Install wall rails to help them walk around their room, if mobility is an issue. If they have a hard time getting in and out of bed, install an adjustable bed rail to make it easier. Make certain their room has motion sensor lights so when they get out of bed, they don't have to fumble for a wall switch.
- Make the kitchen more elderly-friendly by moving food items and kitchenware to shelves that your parents can easily reach without having to stretch, strain or climb onto a chair. Set aside a shelf in the refrigerator or a cupboard where they can store items they specifically enjoy having on hand.
Regardless of the relationship between child and aging parent, moving them into your home will bring challenges. With open lines of communication though, you can make your home a welcome refuge and provide your elderly parent with a place in which they can feel secure and loved.