“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible”
Recently a friend of mine lost his dad. Now, naturally, he’s worried about his mom staying alone. Of course, she’s confident—but age is not kind, you know. He can’t help but worry about her. His brother and he have suggested that she divide her time between them, and she’s thinking about it. However, she’s a little adamant about wanting to live in her own house—alone.
They discussed different solutions—hiring a companion who would stay with her. However, that’s not the best idea as mom’s rather strong-willed.
Then something happened to precipitate the decision. Mom had an accident. So right now, she has no choice but to live with one of them, at least until she recovers, which will take a while. Again, age. Sigh.
The truth is—whether we admit it or not—it is not an easy decision to take in your elderly parents. It may feel like a social obligation that dutiful children should do without question. But no one should ever do it out of pressure. Both parties should be comfortable with it. You have a family of your own. And that family is going to be dramatically affected by bringing more people into the household, especially people with special needs.
Elder care is a thing that parents and their adult children should sit down and talk about long before the matter needs to be acted upon. Plans need to be made well in advance. All parties need to know exactly what to do in the event that elderly parents can no longer live on their own.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out as neatly as we would like. People don’t always plan. Life happens in unpredictable ways. Even when there are plans, they are often disrupted, leaving us to make the best of a difficult situation. Whether due to a plan, or a plan failed, here are the first few steps for preparing your house for your elderly parents:
Deal with the Stairs
My friend invested in a two-storey house, because he always wanted one. But at the time, of course he was not thinking about how he would deal with that second floor if he developed bad knees or hips. And it likely never crossed his mind that he might have to accommodate his elderly parents in that house. The fact that the guest bedroom is upstairs makes that all the more awkward. Adjustments can always be made. Still.
A popular option for dealing with this situation is to have one of those stair lifts installed in the home. Doing this means that you do not have to give up your bedroom downstairs where you have had it for many years. Adding a stair lift makes the entire house accessible to elderly parents, making it feel more like a home than an elder care facility.
The stair lift also helps parents feel like they are not imposing on you by causing you to relocate your bedroom. This and a sense of empowerment makes dealing with the stairs a matter of first priority.
The thing about clutter is that you don’t really see it as clutter when it is yours. And perhaps clutter is the wrong word in this case. Obviously, making it easy for elderly parents to move in involves picking up the clutter. What is not so obvious is the need to create space.
Creating space might involve getting rid of some of the furniture in the middle of the floor. The coffee table might have to go, especially if your parents are using a mobility device like a wheelchair or walker. You will want to create as much space as possible by pushing the furniture out to the edges of the room as opposed to them occupying space in the middle.
You will also want to rethink throw rugs. While adding character and visual interest to the home, they can also be tripping hazards, and may not play well with mobility devices. The idea of decluttering is to make a safe space for moving around for people who have a little more trouble doing so.
Senior-proof the Bathroom
Most home accidents occur in the bathroom. A few precautions can make a big difference. Beneficial to the entire family would be placing non-slip rugs in front of the sink and tub. Continue by adding grab-handles and weight-bearing rails. Include a shower chair. And install a walk-in tub or shower that does not require stepping over a ledge. Ugh.
The bathroom is typically one of the most expensive rooms in the house to remodel. But making it safe for seniors is relatively inexpensive. So, there is no need to put that step off for later.
Presumably, the reason one wants parents to move in is to eliminate emergency situations or make them easier to deal with quickly. So be sure to include a device that will serve as a dedicated call button in case they need to reach someone quickly.
Your house can be home for everyone including your elderly parents by dealing with the stairs, creating space for safer mobility, and senior-proofing the bathroom to make the most dangerous room in the house that much safer for everyone.
And above all, it goes without saying that kindness rules, above all else!
What do you feel?
Do you live with your parents?
How have you made them feel at home?