Preparing Your Home for An Elderly Relative


Are you considering having an elderly family member move in with you?  This is often a transition step that people take to save money on nursing home or other expenses or in order to assist them emotionally in a transition such as the death of a spouse.  But, how difficult is this change, and is it even advisable?  Hopefully you'll find some help below.

The first thing that you need to consider is whether your relationship can withstand long periods of time together while being enjoyable for both of you.  Be honest when you answer this question.  If you've always struggled with resentment against a parent or relative or if they've struggled with the same thing from you, make sure that you do not enter into this arrangement without a GREAT deal of forethought.  Financial or other kinds of stress can sometimes make us do things that we would normally not consider to be good choices.  If your choice to have someone join you in your home is due to feeling so compulsion or obligation, resentment will only grow into bitterness & worse in the years to come.  Neither of you will be healthy & your relationship could go from rocky to horrible very quickly.

Next, if you both feel that your relationship can withstand this arrangement, set up some ground rules.  Talk about how you will handle any conflict that comes up.  Consider having a protocol in place where either individual can feel free to say, “I feel like we need to talk, will it work for us to talk tonight after dinner,” or something similar.  If there is a standard in place, neither of you will feel it necessary to yell to be heard & both will feel that they can talk in a healthy way.

Another ground rule to have in place is that you'll both have responsibilities.  It's important that everyone in a household feel useful, from the smallest member to the oldest.  Perhaps your older relative is not physically able to do much, but they can help in other ways.  If there are youngsters (grandchildren/great-grandchildren) that come to visit, it could be their responsibility to sit with them for a time after dinner & read stories or teach them a card game.  They could put photographs into books or boxes that need to be sorted.  They could crochet or mend, look for grocery sales/coupons, or perform some small effort that would genuinely be valuable to the household, yet not be physically demanding.  If they're unable to read because of poor eyesight, or write anymore, ask them to record a verbal family history so that you & the rest of the family will have it for the future.  Your responsibilities should also be clearly in place.  Talk about who will cook, clear, & wash dishes.  Mundane things can often make or break relationship.

Discuss finances before any moving takes place.  It will be on the minds of the both of you, so you might as well “air the laundry” in advance.  Discuss who is responsible for what.  If you are fine with them living in a guest home that you have free of charge, are you also fine with covering utilities.  If you'll be eating every meal together, who will pay for the groceries?  Discuss these things in detail & don't forget things like insurance costs and other things that are uncomfortable.  Might as well get all the discomfort out of the way from the first so that you can all be comfortable afterward!

Schedules.  Talk about this too!  Schedules are nearly as important as finances when it comes to daily tasks. If you work full or part-time & they tend to have many appointments for medical needs, discuss an arrangement that might work for driving to & from, or find a local shuttle service that might be able to transport.

Consider their comfort.  Our bodies change dramatically as we age, so if they'll be sharing the same quarters as the rest of the family, consider things that might help them to feel more at home in a foreign place.  Room darkening curtains so that they can get the rest they need when they need it (this might include a nap...even if it makes you jealous!)  Finding a way to make their area of the home the right temperature for them can be a big help to both of you.  If you like it very warm or very cool in your home, make accommodations for them if they are opposite.  Ask BEFORE they move in what they usually keep their thermostat at in the house so that you can prepare.  Also, be sure that you have a heating pad & blankets close to their favorite chair.  Find out what type of chair & bed they use for comfort.  If their current ones are too difficult for them to maneuver on their own, consider getting a different one that will work better to keep them as self-sufficient as possible.  Install a shower chair, shower head with a hose, gripping bars, etc. in the bathroom for ease of use.  Consider the entrance to your home, stairways & other potentially hazardous spots.  How will you make those things safe for the newest member of your family to stay with you?

Finally, talk with them about their will & if they have any living will, as well.  If they'll be spending their waning years with you, you will need to know what types of life support they are okay with, should their medical needs come to that.  After their death, you'll need to know whether they have funeral arrangements made somewhere & which parts are already taken care of.  None of us likes to think about these things in advance, but having it squared away in advance gives us the time we need to go through the grieving process without additional anxiety about arrangements.  It's also very comforting to know what your loved one wants when they are unable to speak for themselves.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list, as every situation will be different.  Communication is key when it comes to every area of life, and this is no different.  Make these years spent together be a gift for both parties to hold in their memories.

Long Term Planning For Family Members

Whether you're thinking about parents, grandparents or another aging family member, it can be difficult to think about their health & life journey very far into the future.  We're much more comfortable thinking about them as younger, carefree & vibrant than imagining that their lives could look much different in even a 5 year span of time.  The reality is, however, that they will continue to age just as we will.  In some families, this is an easy & comfortable conversation.  In many Eastern & Near Eastern families, there is no question about where aging elders will go, they stay with family.  In Western culture, things are not so cut & dried.  Whether you've thought about this or not, it is important to communicate with those you love about this particular subject in order to find out their thoughts & hopefully to have a plan in place if/when it becomes necessary.

In some families, an elderly person will no longer feel comfortable living on their own once a spouse or significant other has passed on.  If you suspect that this would be the case, it's important to open that discussion.  Though it is difficult to think about, the reality is that many people will live out their elder years without the spouse of their youth. If the person who passed away is the more gregarious and independent of the two, this can cause some issues. Some people have depended upon another person for so many years that they may not be able to adequately function independent from another.  An example of this is someone who has never gotten their driver's license or someone who has never had to take care of any of the bills that come with day to day life.  If they have always had someone to take care of these things, they may not feel up to the task of learning them at an extremely late phase of life.  You'll most likely have to open discussion about whether they would want to learn those skills & remain independent or whether they'd prefer to move into a place where those things are taken care of.  There are certain group elderly care facilities or assisted living homes that have transportation options available for those who'd like to utilize them.  Alternatively, if they are rather independent, but just need help with bills, you might be able to offer your services to help them learn the ropes, or offer to do bill paying once a month.  The world has changed greatly in the past 50 years & things that are simple & straight forward to us are sometimes very foreign to the elderly in our midst.

If the elderly person you're arranging for is very active & energetic, look into group living situations.  In some states it is becoming popular for elderly friends to cohabitate together for mutual benefit.  They may choose a home or a few homes located in close proximity that they'll buy together & divide responsibilities while also having someone around for company & to keep watch on one another.  This would only work if the people involved knew one another quite well & if the legal ramifications were well documented.

  One of the main things that needs to be decided in the lives of aging seniors is whether or not they will spend a transitional time living with one of their children or grandchildren.  How will that play out?  Is that even an option?  Whether it is or is not, the possibility needs to be discussed so that both parties are aware of expectations that may be there.  Perhaps the aging individual would never want that because they'd rather not feel like a burden.  Perhaps the child or grandchild would never want their aging family member to have to go into a home.  As long as the plan is acknowledged & agreed upon by both parties, it will make the transition much smoother when the time comes.  Changing a way of life can be incredibly stressful, but if some of the ramifications are discussed in advance, the stress level drops tremendously.

When care in an assisted living facility or by a family member becomes unrealistic, options beyond these will also need to be addressed.  Is a full time nurse an option or is a nursing home more realistic?  Where are the finances going to come from for each of these things?  These items are not necessarily things that need to be decided at the onset, but preferences should be known in advance so that hard feelings do not develop.

Planning for the golden years & beyond is a difficult task.  It is akin in stress levels to a child transitioning from high schoolcollege to going off into the world.  Sometimes the preferences are not clear cut, & sometimes they are unrealistic.  Through compassionate discussion & empathy, however, we can find solutions that will be good for all the parties involved so that our loved ones can live out the remainder of their lives in comfort & peace, knowing that they are loved & safe.





New Year's Resolutions


  All of us who have lived past age 25 have probably made resolutions at this time of year, at least once or twice.  Some people just resolve not to make resolutions, but that too is a kind of resolution!  And while everyone jokes about the fact that those resolutions do not usually stick past the second week in January, they're still important.  They force us to think about what things in our life NEED to change, & what we are going to do about that.  They force us to evaluate the direction we're headed & fine tune where we'd like to be going & how.  They force us to admit that we are not perfect & can use a little work ourselves!  Because of this, we've come up with a list that will, hopefully, make it a little easier to take a snapshot of each area of your life & rate where you're at and what you might like to improve in the next year!

  1. Physical Self: How are your eating habits?  Your exercise patterns?  Are there physical therapies that you should be doing daily that you know about, but have not been doing?  How about your vitamins/minerals?  There are a lot of different areas of our physical selves that can easily be put on the back burner & forgotten, but which ones will you move to the front burner & improve this year?
  2. Spiritual Self: Are you as giving as you'd like to be?  Or forgiving? Anger and resentment can have a huge impact on our emotional & physical well-being.  If there are steps you need to take to let something go, then let January 1st, 2018 be the day to do it & not look back again!  Do you have people or organizations that you've been meaning to support with volunteer work or financially?  Start now & don't put it off any longer.  Actions speak much louder than words.
  3. Mental Self: Are you challenging yourself mentally?  Are you learning new things and improving your skills in the areas you're interested in?  Are you ensuring that you do not become stagnant mentally?  Are you getting enough rest?
  4. Relational Self: How are your relationships? Are they blossoming under your care or withering?  Are you reaching out to those you care about?  It can be easy to glide along & hope everything is okay, but generally relationships need cultivation in order to be successful.  Resolve to be more present in your conversations & in your actions towards those you love.

  1. Financial Self: How are your finances?  Are there things you'd like to change?  Is there debt that you need to overcome? Resolve to sit down and make an action plan for giving attention to those things that can easily be neglected throughout the rest of the year.
  2. Creative Self: Are you nurturing your creativity?  Are you finding new outlets to create beauty & usefulness in the world you live in? If you're a painter, paint.  If you're a writer, write.  If you work with wood, carve.  If you are a baker, bake.  However you create, create.  It feeds our souls & helps us to be better able to help others, too!

If you've always balked at the thought of New Year's Resolutions, we all understand.  We've all been in that place where we don't want to resolve to do anything that doesn't seem as if it will be profitable for us. But all of the things listed above will have great impact on you, your life & on those around you, so...  Resolve to make a resolution today!  You will be happy you did!

Making a Plan (The Twilight Years)

We all come to the end of life.  That is difficult for some of us to deal with emotionally, & in some cases it causes people to neglect preparing for it.  But neglecting to think about it does not make the issue go away.  In fact, the longer the task is put off, the more stress it causes just because you have to think about it again & again. So how do you avoid neglecting the important decisions that need to be made for your twilight of years without becoming overwhelmed by everything that should be done?

  1. Baby steps. Goal setting is daunting for many people.  For most of us, it only takes a little progress in the right direction to encourage us to go attain more. If you can convince yourself to take one step of progress, however small, toward your goal each day, you will be surprised how quickly you reach your goal.  If you have a goal of writing a will, for instance, take the step of researching wills online for 10-15 minutes on the first day.  Small increments of time are often thought of as useless, but in reality, much of what we accomplish is in smaller time periods.
  2. Choose how you're going to prioritize the thing you have to accomplish.  Some people start by doing the thing that is the most mentally taxing on them.  Others start with the most urgent order of business.  Others begin by doing the item that will cause the most harm if it is not completed.  Determine how you will prioritize what you have to accomplish & put things into a logical order.
  3. Be thorough. Once you have determined which item is your priority & you've begun taking baby steps, stay consistent & finish that item thoroughly so that you do not have to re-visit it.  If you start making a will, finish it & sign it & distribute it properly so that you know the item is complete.  If you are making a DNR order for yourself, finish it up, have it signed by a doctor & post it on your refrigerator.
  4. Tie up loose ends. As you move through your list in a consistent manner, you may find that other questions come up, and that more items are added to your list. Be sure to write these things down so that you do not forget them.  Re-visit them after you've completed your priority list.

We all have things that we neglect dealing with in our lives.  To-do lists pile up with things that “should” get done “someday”.  The above list could be used for completing any project or task in any stage of life.  The only reason I've discussed it in this article is because it is a very common problem as we approach the end of life because the subjects that are to be dealt with are uncomfortable to even think about, let alone talk with others about.  Do not let your discomfort dissuade you from peace of mind.  You will feel better & your family will certainly thank you for having less stress to deal with after you've passed.  Begin with making a plan of action, it's the first in a long series of baby steps toward peace.