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.