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When I was young, my grandmother moved in with us. We moved her across the country in a 1,000 mile road trip. It was an adjustment for all of us.  I remember it as a joyous occasion because I never got to be with my grandmother very much as she lived in Mass. and we were in the Chicago area.

She wasn't able to live independently... to take her medicine, drive, maintain a home or properly prepare meals. Now that I look back, I give my Dad a lot of credit for allowing my Grandmother on my mom's side to move in with us. He had almost become an empty nester. This was way back in the 1960's.

So... what did we learn and what should you think about?

Talk about all the issues you can think of before a loved one moves in, create an atmosphere of mutual respect, and try to come to some compromises that will work for everyone in the family.

Talk about the details in advance so expectations are met.

Let your loved one help around the house if they want to and are physically able to. Each of us needs to have a sense of self-worth and usefulness. It can be difficult if most or all of the daily tasks are taken over by someone else.

Clearly establish the "house rules" as tactfully as possible, and agree on each person's responsibilities and limits within the home. Each family has its own identity, and the addition of elder parents to the formula can often disrupt family harmony for a while, even when it's handled with great care and sensitivity.

Work out a budget. Who will pay for what?  Don't' assume anything regarding financial responsibility.

Consider your children, if they still live at home. When Grandma and Grandpa move in, it can be a difficult adjustment for kids and teens, so set some boundaries that everyone can live with. Your children need to be considerate of their grandparents, but the grandparents also need to step back and let you discipline your own children when necessary.

Make sure everyone has some privacy. This may mean adding a separate suite to your home, installing an extra bathroom or even just rearranging your home slightly. Even though your parents no longer live in their own home, they'll still want some space of their own and some private time to themselves.

Figure out what goes where. This may sound obvious, but it can be tricky. Your parents have been surrounded by their own furniture and possessions for many years, but your house is almost certainly not big enough for two sets of furnishings. Perhaps some things can be sold, given to relatives or put into storage.

Encourage your parents to maintain their independence and to stay active. This will benefit their physical and emotional health.

Be patient - it can take a while for the rhythms of the household to re-establish themselves after such a big change.

Look into "universal design" and read up on "aging in place" as it relates to making it easier and more convenient for your parents or in laws to live in your home.  Wide doorways, elimination of thresholds from room to room, reduction and elimination of falling hazards, zero incline showers where a wheel chair can be rolled into.  A first floor bedroom is desirous, if not mandatory.

Add items like grab bars, security poles, non-slip mats under throw rugs, ramps, lifts, easy-open door handles, walk-in bathtubs, lighted canes for nighttime trips to the bathroom, big button phones, personal emergency alert system for when you aren't home, potty chairs, shower aids, rollators, wheel chairs, transport chairs and walkers.  You can also add items to help protect a loved one that has dementia, such as exit alarms.

(This article originally appeared on the Caregiving Partnership blog.)


About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.

Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.