By Glyndora Condon MS MFT LPC
If life follows the natural context then our parents will become seniors which may include medical, mental, or other concerns. Some seniors are sharp witted and very agile (often very active exercising, eating healthy, and social); and due to this then they are able to remain home longer, drive longer, and possess more independence throughout most of their senior lives. Only some basic needs are then placed into effect, someone may need to take care of the yard, some maintenance and cleaning duties of the home (unless they agree to live in a condominium where such is taken care for them in many cases); as well as, someone to do some shopping or heavier lifting items. In addition, an alert device for that parent would always be most beneficial for them to wear on their person, in case of falls. Frequent visits and calls will ensure that parent will have the emotional and physical contact with family and friends which is vital for their emotional health.
There are those who are cognizant and/or mentally alert but with more physical limitations but who wish to remain in their homes. They would prefer often for their child or children to be there to bathe and to tend to them, but their adult children are often with jobs and with children and cannot always be available daily for these parents. Some options is to hire a daycare agency who will pop in and to provide some cooking, cleaning, bathing, and like services; of which sometimes their insurance will pay for at least part of the expense. Another is a home health caregiver who is more medically focused to care for the medication and medical concerns of the client with a CNA, or CMA who can take care of the more physical and home needs. In some cases, a fulltime-live in caretaker can be beneficial for families as their parent is in more need for continual assistance. In either of these cases then the adult children would be wise to review each consideration and individual, checking references, and reviews of each to ensure the best care for their parent. That parent’s pension or SSI would pay for their services and food, rent, utilities, and medical expenses when insurance takes much of the expense from the parent, but not in all cases. Adult children may not be able to afford the added expenses that are not covered and therefore may need to consider less optimal options:
· Their parent lives with them
· Their parent enters into a assistant living or nursing home facility
If one is considering taking in their parent; into their own homes, then there will be issues to entertain prior to that decision:
1. Is my spouse on board with this added responsibility?
2. Am I ready for less privacy?
3. Do my parent’s core beliefs fit in with my own or will there be conflict with moral and home decisions?
4. Is my parent or we controlling?
5. How much time am I willing to devote to my parent’s care: emotionally, physically, and socially?
6. Are there other members of the household and what are their thoughts?
7. Do we have the room and is our home safe for this individual?
8. Are we equipped to handle the concerns of my parent fully?
9. Can they and you allow each to be different and free to make adult decisions?
10. Am I physically and emotionally able to add this responsibility? Each of my family?
11. Is there respect between all parties for each other?
12. Let’s way the pros and the cons!
13. Unlike parenting a child, this person is another adult with rights of an adult; Are we able to negotiate conflicts and find solutions in other issues?
14. This parent may not be the same parent of 10 years ago, emotionally, physically, or socially-meaning that this parent may be less flexible with their ideas, may have less tact, may require more patience, may create more labor, may be an escape risk, may not be able to manage their finances, medication, baths, or other-which adds to risk factors of emotions, harm, anxiety, depression, frustration, and physical harm due to lifting. This is a minute by minute and day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year responsibility.
15. Often children experience feelings of higher anxiety over the “what ifs” and their own feelings of failing their loved ones.
16. Sometimes the parent wants and expects your home to be ran as her home was, which may not be congruent with what you want for your home.
17. Will my parent have visitors (church, friends, neighbor) and is there a way that this time could be respected by my family? Perhaps I expect visitors, and how will my parent react to them?
18. How will he/she react when I need time for myself, a vacation, a respite?
19. What kind of movies or music do we all enjoy, and will this be a problem for any of us?
20. Transportation to and from the doctors now become an issue just as it was when we had children, which could effect our jobs and our own health as we are now in a high risk forum with germs; and sometimes these office visits are not in accordance to what is convenient.
These and other like concerns must be considered prior to inviting or agreeing to one’s parent or parents to become a resident. The answer to each of these questions may help guide you to your decision so that the parent is cared for while our family is also being cared for. In the best of situations there will need to be compromises of preferences yet, clear boundaries must be present from the onset to help the adult child and parent to know their limits. A few suggestions are as follows:
· There needs to be a designated area for the parent to make his or her own, which aids their feelings of autonomy and dignity. Their furniture, their space, their routine, their preferences are observed in that area.
· Each member of this blend of a family should know their expected role as each are adults. What days of which chores, done by whom?
· All members need to be agreeable to the terms and the compromises, understanding that life often throws us things that we did not anticipate which may require changes.
· The host family needs time of privacy and respected for their own lifestyle and choices
· The ability to bring an issue to the table for discussion and a solution weekly, is needed
· Parents must agree to not try to parent their children or their grandchildren unless requested; and then will need to parent the grandchildren in accordance to their biological parent’s wishes, not their own.
· Emotional, physical, and social boundaries must be recognized and honored to not violate each other.
· There may be a time where a respite is necessary, which is advised on a monthly continuum or as needed to decrease the risk of burn out
· Other adult children should be willing (if able) to help with the care of this parent either by coming in as needed, taking the parent for a month or two in cycles with the other children, and like so that the brunt of care giving is not totally on one adult child.
· Agreements or contracts is good to be prior to any move between all parties but if this was not done, then a family meeting, with a plan to address the concerns, and the appropriate communication of these needs should be brought to the attention to each member.
· And each of the other concerns need to be decided upon with a plan and alternate plan when needed.
This situation is a love service, regardless of which decision best fits your situation since you love your parent enough to provide in some way to them during this time of their journey which is honorable. We are not perfect, and we will all make mistakes, let go of any delusion of perfection and the guilt that rides with it. If you are dealing with this issue and are under guilt and anxiety, then please contact our office to help you with coping tools, CBT, and other alternative medical adjuncts which can help you find peace.