Challenges of living with parents
Challenges of living with parents
Major considerations around retirement living include retirees’ needs for security, continuous care models and being part of communities to avoid loneliness and isolation. For many of those who cannot afford or cannot find places in a retirement village or estate, the only option is to move in with family, usually with their adult children and young grandchildren. How such a move will affect family members, and the challenges it will bring, depends on a number of factors, says Riette du Preez, a Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist with a special interest in elderly care. “Despite the challenges, many families still go this route.”
Reasons leading to this decision include elderly parents requiring specific health care, social or cultural expectations for parents to live with their adult children, or financial situations.
Du Preez says there are certain things families can do to help navigate the decision. “Communication between all family members, from grandchildren to grandparents, is key.”
Household routines will be affected so these must be carefully considered, she says. “It may be helpful to compromise to meet everyone’s needs, even if it means taking turns. Roles and responsibilities can often become issues in co-habitating families.”
“Deciding on the daily, practical running of the household and who will take charge of what is key. We often leave them to chance, causing frustration and conflict in relationships.”
Another issue often left to chance is the nature of relationships between individuals in the family. For example, if the adult daughter and her mother never got along before living together, chances are this will not change.
“Problematic relationships are bound to be amplified when you live together.” Du Preez says when grandparents live with their grandchildren, confusion may arise about the parental role. Grandparents often take on parental responsibilities when both parents are working. It may cause conflict between adults and confuse younger children if not managed.
The issue must be handled respectfully between the adults and there must be consistency when dealing with children. Involving grandparents in certain decisions is important to help them feel integrated into the family.
For example, decoration of their space and keeping some of their own furniture could be ways of transitioning a parent into their new environment in your home.
Taking time as a family without the elderly parent is important. It is also important to allow the elderly parent time without the family. “Deciding to live with an elderly parent can be very hard or it may come naturally. Whatever the case, it is important to consider all the positives and negatives,” Du Preez says.
Making homes safe for the elderly
Making the decision to have an elderly parent or parents move in may be a logical choice for many families, but making the family home safe for them is often not taken into consideration.
Not only may families have to prepare for changes to routines within the home, and living arrangements to factor in the arrival of an elderly person, but they also need to remember that physical changes to the home may need to be made.
“It is unfortunately extremely expensive to get elderly relatives into old age homes or retirement villages, so arranging in-home care may be a better option,” says Desiree Pather, franchisor at Handy Helpers Home Care Solutions, which is based in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
This could be at elderly people’s own homes or within the homes of their family. The benefits are that the elderly person is happier surrounded by what they are familiar with.
Lighting within and outside homes is one of many considerations, says Pather. “Night lights that go on automatically outside the home are necessary as are night lamps on bedside tables, preferably ones you touch to put on and off.”
Pather says another thing families can do to make the home safe for elderly relatives is to tape down the ends of rugs, or get rid of rugs that are slippery. Also create obstacle-free paths within the home, such as from the bedroom to bathroom.
Fix broken paving bricks on outside pathways and paint anti-slip coatings on flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. Pather says it is a good idea to invest in travel mugs to carry hot beverages and use plastic dishes and non-slip placemats.
Make bathrooms fall-proof by installing grab bars, get non-slip mats, make toilet seats higher so it is easier to get up, and install shower seats. Families can get medical alert devices for the elderly to wear, and have these linked to efficient medical response companies.
For elderly people with hearing problems, families may have to buy phones that have flashing lights, and fit torches linked to doorbells. Family members should know how to react during medical emergencies.
“Caregivers should be trained in first aid and CPR to assist until an ambulance arrives. If there is a medical emergency or fall, people should call an ambulance immediately or a family member who can help. Put all medication in a bag to take to the hospital.”