No man or woman, regardless of his or her age, wants to consider that a day may come when they need to rely on loved ones to help them perform everyday activities. But every day tens of millions of people serve as unpaid caregivers for their aging friends or family members. A 2015 survey from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that approximately 34.2 million people had provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months.
Many unpaid caregivers are pulling double duty, caring for their aging parents while also raising families of their own. While there’s no guarantee that aging men and women will require care, caregivers figure to become more necessary as life expectancies increase. In fact, recent years have seen the senior population in the United States exceed 50 million for the first time in the country’s history, and figures from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that figure will continue to rise until 2029. Men and women who are preparing to welcome an aging loved one into their homes may wonder how to make that transition go smoothly, especially if they have young children at home.The following are some tips that can help families prepare to welcome an aging friend or family member into their homes.
• Speak with your loved one’s physicians. Speak with an aging loved one’s physicians so you can get a complete picture of their physical and mental condition. This can give you an accurate depiction of how much care your loved one needs now and how much they might need in the future if their condition worsens.
• Discuss forthcoming changes as a family. Once you gain a full understanding of your loved one’s physical and mental condition and before this person moves into your home, discuss it with your family. Adding a new member to your household will affect everyone, so each member of the family, including young children, should be included when discussing how the family dynamic will change. Parents must recognize that even young children may be asked to make sacrifices to accommodate aging loved ones. Explain these sacrifices in advance and how important it is to make an aging loved one feel welcome when they move in.
• Discuss conditions with children. Children may recognize their grandparents or elderly loved ones have physical limitations, but they likely won’t understand conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Parents can ask a physician about how to explain cognitive decline to young children. Children may not recognize cognitive decline as readily as adults, so parents may need to discuss these conditions with their children periodically and/or if the conditions worsen.
Millions of people across the globe welcome aging loved ones into their homes when they can no longer care for themselves. Such caregiving changes family dynamics, and these changes should be discussed before and after a loved one moves in.