Living with elderly parents can be difficult. You have to ensure everyone is happy, including yourself, as well as making sure to provide the care your parents require. Below, we list a few things you should consider.
You may also want to read our piece on delivering care as a family member for more information on the topic.
Keeping Everyone Happy
Setting Ground Rules
Set ground rules concerning how you and your parents will live together. You’ll need to create a new family dynamic in your household that acknowledges your new living arrangement without treating your parents as house guests.
Set rules regarding daily household activities that will need to be adjusted under the new arrangements, such as eating dinner together, spending time out of the house, or watching television.
For example, your schedule may not accommodate being able to sit down to dinner every night, while your parents may want to have meals together as a family each night. In this type of situation, you’ll need to set rules regarding how often your family eats meals together versus on their own and stick to them once they’re set. And be prepared to adjust the rules as necessary if your parents are facing an illness that may get worse over time.
Don’t burn yourself out
Be willing to put yourself first from time to time. You can’t be an effective caregiver if you’re not also taking care of yourself. Keep an eye on your own mental and emotional health and ask for help from someone else when caregiving is taking too much of a toll on you. So
make sure you’re taking care of your own physical health by eating healthy foods, drinking enough water each day, and getting adequate sleep each night.
Give yourself a break when you need it to avoid burnout. Ultimately, being a caregiver for elderly parents is a marathon, not a sprint. To avoid burning out from your caregiving responsibilities, keep an eye on your own feelings and take a break from caregiving when it gets to be too much.
Don’t Be Disheartened
Don’t expect gratitude or praise, especially if your loved one has dementia. If one or both of your parents has dementia, they may not realize all that you’re doing to care for them, leaving your hard work unappreciated. Avoid letting this demoralize you by recognizing that it isn’t a reflection on you personally, but rather a symptom of their condition
Arranging Living Areas
If their condition isn’t too serious, you may be able to set out to find a Granny Annexe. This will allow you to live separately to your parents, whilst also being on their doorstep. This arrangement will help them keep their independence and give you a bit more ‘me time’.
Even if you need to attend to them frequently, this will allow you to have a space away from them whilst also helping them stay as independent as possible.
Recognize what your limitations are and where you need outside help. Taking care of elderly parents often takes a significant toll on their caregiver children. No matter what you think about yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll run into your own limitations when it comes to caring for your parents. If this happens, recognize that there are some things you can’t do alone and take steps toward getting the help you need.
For example, you may find that you’re uncomfortable with helping your parents bathe and clothe themselves. It’s perfectly normal to feel this way; however, you’ll ultimately need to find a way to have someone else help your parents. Whether that’s friends, family or even a paid carer.
This is the same for when you’re feeling tired and/or burned out. You need to be comfortable and able to call upon someone to give yourself a break. Living with elderly parents will definitely take its toll, so making sure you have this agreed upon first, will always make life easier.
Some symptoms may require someone with a bit more knowledge and/or a proper qualification. When this is the case, you should be sure to find yourself a qualified carer with proof of the right experience and knowledge.
Although qualifications are key to finding a good carer, you should also make sure you and your parents get on with the carer you hire. Having a good dynamic and relationship with them will make it easier for both you and the carer.
Living With Elderly Parents And Providing Nutrition
Meet Their Dietary Needs
Stock up on and cook foods that meet their dietary needs. As your parents age, they may be required to eat or avoid certain foods in response to a chronic illness, or they may simply not be physically able to cook and eat for themselves. In these scenarios, make sure you’re able to provide for your parents by cooking healthy meals for them and feeding them if necessary.
Assist Where You Can
Assist your parents in performing activities of daily living as needed. Your primary goal as a caregiver for your elderly parents, beyond addressing medical needs, will be helping them perform those behaviours essential to daily life. These may include self-feeding, bathing, mobility, and attending to personal hygiene.
Your parents may still be capable with cooking their own meals, or may at least want to try. In this case you should let them carry on if it’s safe to do so, and you should make the kitchen more accessible if possible – Whether this be moving appliances to better suit them, or creating more room for them to move.