How to Care for an Aging Parent

Living with Aging Parents: You're Under My Roof Now, Dad

Living in the same house gives grandchildren and grandparents a chance to get to know each other.
Living in the same house gives grandchildren and grandparents a chance to get to know each other.

One of the most monumental decisions to be made about aging parents is where they will live. Each option has pros and cons. For example, your parents may naturally want to stay in the home they live in, because they're familiar and comfortable with it. Their friends, albeit also aging, are nearby, so they have means to socialize. However, their house doesn't accommodate the problems they have getting around, nor is it nearby to any grown children who might be able to help out.

Generally, the dwelling decision will probably boil down to how much supervision and nursing care your aging parents need. Their home may be adequate if they make some modifications like adding grab bars in the shower and cabinets that are easy to open with arthritic hands. A home care aide could visit a few times a week to help out. If they need a little more supervision, options include assisted living or a group home. The nursing home is an option for someone who needs more intensive medical care, while a continuing care retirement community provides all levels of care, from assisted living to nursing, depending on when the resident requires them.

­All of these options, however, can be expensive, and often, grown children will bring their parents under their own roofs. To some, this may be a cost-cutting measure, while others couldn't bear the guilt of putting their parents away in some institution. Bringing a parent home is not even a question to consider in some cultures; it's just what's done.

Just because it seems like the affordable, gracious thing to do for your parents doesn't mean that being one big happy family again will be easy. Caregivers may find themselves stuck in the middle between aging parents who'd rather be in their own home and their own children who may not want to share a bedroom just so grandpa can have one, too. After living apart, it may be hard for parents and their grown children to cohabitate again, particularly if space is limited and if the relationship was already strained to begin with.

One way to ensure success in the endeavor of living with an aging parent is to sit down and identify rules and responsibilities. For example, if the caregiver disciplines his or her children by denying them dessert only to find out that grandma gave them a scoop on the sly, there are bound to be conflicts. Communication is key, though that's easier said than done, particularly if the aging parents suffer from a malady such as hearing loss or memory problems.

We touched on costs a bit in this section, but we'll explore the topic more in-depth on the next page.