What to expect when you become an at-home caregiver for a parent

Choosing to have an elderly parent move into your home is a loving and caring decision. After all, your parent always took care of you. Now it only seems right that you do the same in your loved one’s time of need. But, is it really the best choice?

Open and honest discussion with your parent, and other family members, is an important first step when you are trying to decide whether bringing your parent into your home is the right choice for everyone. Family meetings with your parent, spouse, children and/or siblings will allow everyone to share their opinions and discuss possible alternatives. In fact, active communication among all family members is the basis for a strong support system, both for your parent and the primary at-home caregiver.

Although some of these discussions may be difficult, several topics require special attention. For example, you will need to review all possible residential options, each family member’s role during the transition, the type of care required, potential changes in lifestyle, personal finances and the possible changes your home may need based on their physical needs.

If you decide to take your parent into your home, understand that your life, and the lives of other family members, will change in a number of important ways.

Change in Family Roles

Living with a parent will lead to a change in family roles. Your parent may no longer act like a “parent.” You may become the authority figure who gives direction and controls many aspects of your parent’s life. Your spouse or children will also likely assume unfamiliar roles and responsibilities. Here are some suggested steps to take before becoming an at-home caregiver:

  • Determine your comfort level with becoming the decision-maker and the person with authority
  • Be prepared for your parent to feel upset or frustrated that they can no longer set the rules, control their own situation or are losing their independence
  • Reach an understanding on what you can expect from your parent in terms of doing chores or contributing financially
  • Determine your spouse’s and children’s willingness to help with caregiving

Lifestyle Changes

You and your parent probably have very different lifestyles. For example, sleeping and eating schedules, as well as social and daily activities may need to be adjusted in order to reduce the disruption to your lives. Here are some suggestions to make this process easier:

  • Talk about and plan how to work around sleeping habits of all members of the household
  • Discuss what types of food you eat, when meals are prepared, and if special diets are required
  • Determine if smoking and/or drinking habits are compatible
  • Consider how you can help your parent continue their social life, such as visits to friends, attending church and how transportation to these and other activities will be handled
  • Encourage your parent to continue to enjoy hobbies that keep their mind sharp and body active
  • Consider how the household noise level and activities will affect your parent
  • Try to remove any unnecessary clutter from walkways to reduce falls
  • Determine whether anything needs to be installed to keep your loved one safe, such as grab bars beside the toilet and bathtub or if there is a need for a wheelchair ramp