With an aging parent about to move in, you may feel excitement – and a certain measure of uncertainty. You might think to yourself, "Can I really do this?"
Relax, Rock Star.
With the right understanding and communication, your second stint living together does not have to be a return to your rebellious teenage years.
Here are some methods for making your family members – and yourself – happy and at ease when mom or dad moves in.
1. "Don't Stop Believing" You Will Be Successful
Doubts are inevitable. Is this the best option? Can my family handle this? Will Mom want this? Trust that you are the best option. There is no right answer, no correct door to take and no one-size-fits-all solution. The only certainty is that you have to believe you can do it.
Keep reminding yourself:
- You are the one your aging parent needs.
- This is a worthwhile endeavor.
- Your aging parent is a creative and resourceful mind who deserves a full life well into her sunset years.
- Aging in place -- with you -- is the best option.
You can do it!
2. Show Your "Sweet Emotion" From the Start
From there, your action plan requires the mutual understanding of all parties involved -- you, your spouse, your parent, and your children. This will be a community-family effort.
Give voice to how each person feels to get the ball rolling. Talk with each person individually. Begin with how you feel:
"I'm really excited that we can live together again after all these years! May I share with you some thoughts I have about living together?"
If they say yes, you can proceed. If they don't want to talk about it, go back to step 1. Start over and reinforce your original message -- excitement and promise.
Remember: there is a fine line between sharing your concerns and making someone feel unwelcome. From their perspective, they are giving up everything to move into your home. Have empathy for what this means.
Be specific about your concerns. Own them. Use the pronoun I: "I feel, I think."
"Sometimes, I get concerned. I want to make sure this works really well for you, me and your grandchildren. I'm worried because we haven't lived together in a while and there are expectations and I'll disappoint you and I won't know how to handle what you say."
Remind them that you are coming from a place of love and always ask for permission to serve them. Don't assume that good intentions are received as good actions without verifying with your aging parent first. Your goal is to open up a line of communication wherein talking about your relationship and your concerns is ok.
3. "Let it Be"
Your parents are your parents. They have always been your parents; they will always be your parents. Just because they move into your home does not mean that they are living under your rules.
Do you hold a grudge that your mom didn't love you as much as your sibling? Did your mom never support your career? It doesn't matter now. Leave behind any lingering issues rather than trying to fix historical wrongs. Just swallow hard and let it all go. (Yes, easier said than done.)
Set a new future for you and your family. Listen to the words of wisdom, and let it be.
4. Get Ready. They Will "Rock You like A Hurricane"
The whirlwind of upcoming change requires a game plan. How will you prepare your home for the arrival of your aging parent? A few home improvements and installations will ease your loved one into their new abode:
- Plug in nightlights around corners and in hallways for added safety
- Place bath mats to prevent slips in your tub
- Replace flip switches with rocker switches. They require less effort to turn on
- Consider wider doorways for better wheelchair accessibility
- If you have a two-story home, you may want to set up a first-floor bedroom to reduce the hazards posed by stairs
5. Remember, You Are a "Fortunate Son" (Or Daughter)
What does it take to be a rock star to your aging mom or dad? Believe in yourself. Communicate effectively with your loved ones. Leave your old baggage behind. Fix up your home. These steps have been proven time and again to raise us mere mortals into rock stardom.
So be prepared and don't strive to be the perfect child to your aging parent. There's no such thing as a perfect rock star (Ask Mick Jagger!).
This was written by Shayne Fitz-Coy, the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.