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More than seven million are caring for older people who need help with at least one daily task, such as dressing, bathing, or eating. These caregivers include spouses, adult children, other relatives, and friends.
If you're smack in the middle of your own life and helping to care for an elderly parent, check out The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents, by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D., it's a wonderful resource covering all sorts of important issues.
As members of the sandwich generation, it's quite likely that many of us will at some point find ourselves caring for aging parents.
The level of care-giving will vary from person to person. Some of us will only need to lend a hand with yard work, writing checks, or driving to doctors' appointments, while others will assume much greater responsibility for a parent's care. Some of us will invite aging parents to move into our homes with us.
Deciding If You Can Do It
Wanting to help out Dad by having him move in with you is a loving and giving gesture. It also could be a huge mistake for you, your parent, and your entire family.
The desire to help a parent who can no longer cope on his or her own can be powerful. After all, Dad always took care of you, right? Now it's your turn. If you and Dad haven't gotten along since you were a kid, however, chances are that it's not going to happen now. And moving into your house could just be a recipe for disaster.
If you're thinking about moving an aging parent into your home, there are some things you'll need to consider. Keep in mind that, unless you live alone, your decision will affect your entire family. It's not one to be made lightly. For example, consider the following:
Space limitations. Think carefully about how much space you have in your home. Shared living tends to work best in large homes, or those with separate bedroom and bathroom facilities. Will a family member have to give up a bedroom to accommodate Dad? Will you need to install grab bars beside the toilet and in the tub of the family bathroom? If your space is very limited, but you're determined to have Dad move in, consider renovating a basement or attic to create more space, or putting on a small addition.
Practical matters. Other than space, what other limitations might your home have for an aging parent? Perhaps the hallways aren't wide enough to accommodate Dad's wheelchair, or there are more steps than he's able to handle.
Family dynamics. Maybe you and Dad have always been best pals and have never spoken a word to each other in anger. If your husband can't stand to be around your father, however, you're asking for serious trouble if you insist on moving dear old Dad in. Moving your parent into your home will affect not only you, but your entire family. Will your kids still feel free to invite their friends over to hang out, or will they be afraid of disturbing Granddad? And how will Granddad react to their music and late-night entries? Never move an aging parent into your home at the risk of jeopardizing your relationships with your own family members.
Amount of care. If Dad can dress, bathe, feed, and generally care for himself when he moves in with you, you'll have a much easier time of it than if he's unable to cope with these tasks of daily living. Think about how much time and energy you really have to care for an elderly parent in your home. If you work, will you be able to manage care-giving in addition to your job? Could you arrange for someone to come in and help Dad while you're at work? Will Dad be alone all day and bored silly?
These are only a few issues you'll need to address before deciding whether or not having Dad move in is the right thing to do. Call a family meeting and let everyone have his or her say before making a decision.