Offering to help an ill or injured friend or family member is incredibly generous and can be mutually beneficial. However, it can also create complications in your relationship, especially since one of the most common types of help people provide is to their elderly family members. Before you offer your services as a caregiver, read this article and have a serious conversation with your loved one.
The Benefits of Multigenerational Living
Today, more people live in multigenerational households than ever before. In 2016, 64 million people, or one in five Americans, live in a home with multiple generations of their adult family members. Many families find that these living arrangements offer many benefits: combining your resources can ease financial tensions, young children can learn about empathy and build stronger relationships with a loved one, and you can reduce a disabled or senior loved one’s social isolation.
However, some people with disabilities struggle with their loss of independence, and your household may discover unexpected challenges. To ease everyone’s transition, it’s a good idea to do some advanced planning. Read on to learn about some topics you and your loved one should address.
Can My Home Accommodate My Loved Ones’ Special Needs?
Not every home is designed for someone with special needs. If your loved one has mobility issues, you’ll need to find ways to accommodate them so they can live safely in your home. You should ask yourself:
- Is my home wheelchair accessible?
- Could my loved one easily and safely access a bathroom for their personal needs?
- Do I need to renovate my home with ramps, grab bars, a hospital-style bed, and other amenities to make it safe?
- Is my loved one a fall risk? How will I incorporate fall prevention measures into my home?
- Can I quickly implement safety systems that will protect a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?
You’ll also want to consider your loved one’s transportation needs. How will they travel to doctors’ appointments, pick up prescriptions, and run other errands? Can your vehicle accommodate their needs, or will they need to use specialized transportation?
How Will We Divide Up Household Costs and Responsibilities?
While you might think that your recuperating loved one will happily watch your children, tend to the laundry, and chip in for utility bills, they might have other ideas. You’ll want to discuss your expectations and their ability to contribute to your household’s finances and other needs while they live with you.
How Will Caregiving Impact the Other People in My Home?
Many of us live with spouses, partners, children, and others. Bringing a disabled loved one into your home doesn’t just impact you; it also affects their lives. Before you agree to care for a loved one, you should have candid, age-appropriate conversations with your home’s other residents. These conversations should address:
- Your loved one’s special needs and what your spouse, partner, and children can expect
- A discussion of your expectations about their involvement in your loved one’s care
- Each resident’s concerns and privacy needs
You’ll also want to be aware that children can have a hard time understanding the impact of a serious disability. Be prepared for ongoing questions and concerns about your loved one’s physical and emotional health if you have children in your home.
How Long Can You Care for Your Loved One?
While some people with disabilities transition into long-term multigenerational living, it’s not safe or advisable for everyone. Before you agree to care for a loved one, you should talk about issues that might lead to a different long-term care plan. For example, suppose your loved one’s condition worsens and they need help with feeding, toileting, and dressing themselves. Can you accommodate these needs at home?
It’s best to have these conversations in advance rather than address them for the first time after a health emergency.
What Happens When I Need a Break or Go to Work?
Most people can’t stay home and tend to their loved ones all day every day. If you work, you’ll need to create a plan that keeps your loved one safe while you’re away or occupied. This may involve hiring a home health aide or another provider.
Sometimes, caregivers just need a break. Whether it’s a quick run to the store, a personal doctor’s appointment, or a week-long vacation, you’ll need to step away from your caregiving responsibilities from time to time. If your loved one isn’t capable of independent living, you’ll need to identify a source of respite care.
Sometimes, another friend or family member will agree to step in. However, there may also be times when you or your loved one will need to obtain respite care from a social services agency or long-term care provider.
Are There Local Programs That Can Help Me and My Loved One?
The Bay Area has many organizations and services that support its disabled and senior residents. For example, the Canopy Health alliance includes physicians and clinical centers that focus on geriatric medicine, home care, and hospice services. They include UCSF Health’s Housecall and Bridges programs, John Muir Health Senior Services, and Alameda Health System’s Fall Prevention Center.
Cohn, D., Passel, J. (2018, April 5). A record 64 million Americans live in multigenerational households. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/05/a-record-64-million-americans-live-in-multigenerational-households/