Most of us know that one day, our parents will grow older and that the cycle of life will come full circle. One day, our parents and primary caregivers will need us to care for and protect them.
It helps if you have prepared yourself and thought through all the questions you need to consider before this life changing event happens. Understanding their needs, your needs and preparing your family for the adjustments which everyone will need to make is immensely important in ensuring a smooth and harmonious transition.
1. What Sort of Care Does Your Parent Need?
The first question you need to ask is what sort of care will your parent need? Are they moving in for companionship after a spouse has passed away? Are they physically unable to care for themselves or facing a degenerative brain disease such as Alzheimer’s?
You need to understand not only their needs now, but their needs in the next 5 to 10 years. If they have a progressive disease, what will it look like and what sort of care will they need?
2. Will You Be Able to Meet their Needs?
This is a very important question to answer. In terms of time, money, energy and ability, will you and your family be able to meet the needs of your aging parent not only today, but over the rest of their lifetime?
If you are working full time or need to care and supervise for your young children, are there supplementary care services which can help you? Can you hire a domestic helper or arrange for part time house hold help to lighten the burden of caring for your home? Are a few hours at a senior care centre an option? Does your parent need a nurse?
In addition to the questions around supervision and care, there will also be financial concerns. Caring for an aging parent can be a big financial commitment. Discuss this upfront with your siblings and your parents. See if they will be able to help you financially. Review your parent’s medical plans and decide on their care options with them.
3. Do You, Your Family and Your Parent Get Along Well with Each Other?
Do you have a good relationship with your parent? In any situation when a new family member is added into the household, there is bound to be friction. If you already have a positive relationship, it will be easier to get over this. If you’ve always had a difficult one, moving in will make it more difficult. Consider also the relationship which your spouse and children have with your parent, they too will need to get along with each other on a daily basis. Discuss the impact of your parent’s move with them. Having your parent stay with you allows you to model positive values and behaviours to your own children, but you need to ensure that your relationships and your own relationship with your parent can survive living in the same house.
4. Will Your Parent Have a Social Network?
Whilst family is important, your parent is also an adult who has formed meaningful social networks over the years and has a clear sense of himself or herself as an individual. Will moving into your home mean that they will lose the friends and connections which they have made and which are meaningful to them?
This might not be an issue if your parents have always lived near you and will remain mobile. This is an issue if your parents have always lived in another country and moving in with you means re-locating to Singapore. It is also an issue if they are no longer independently mobile and will have to depend on you to send them to their engagements and if you will not have the time to accompany them or make transport arrangements for them.
5. Is Your Home Elder-Friendly?
Assess your home and check if it elder-safe. Is the lighting adequate? Are there hand rails and grab bars in the bathrooms and along the stairs. Are you able to provide a separate room on the ground floor of your home for you parent in case they have mobility issues?
6. Can Your Parent Live by Your House Rules?
You may have house rules which your parent is not used to. Is your parent a smoker? Will he or she be able to refrain from smoking in the home? How about drinking or watching violent TV programs when your children around? Are these an issue for you? Will your parent be willing to live by your family’s house rules?
7. Is Your Family Able to Adjust their Lifestyle to Accommodate Your Parent?
Just as your parent may have to adjust some of their habits to accommodate to your family’s lifestyle, so too will your family need to adjust to your parent’s needs. Will your teenager who loves to listen to loud music be willing to use headphones instead? Will your spouse be willing to share the TV with your parent who might want to watch melodramas? If your parent needs a lot of care and attention, will your spouse understand and be willing to accept that you might have less time together as a couple?
- Caring for an aging parent is an important family value and doing so allows us to model an example of filial piety to our children.
- Managing a successful integration of your parent and your family requires an understanding of your parents present and future needs as well as a commitment from you and your family to adjust to the changes which will inevitably need to take place.