Perhaps you are answering a long-held promise to care for mum or dad or both, or maybe you need some temporary accommodation, but whatever the reason for moving in with ageing parents, there is the risk of the relationship becoming strained.
The first thing to do is to set your boundaries.
It may not seem important at first, but you will need some people and places that are yours. Being a carer can be emotionally draining and all-consuming. Having friends and activities outside this role will keep you refreshed and balanced.
It will also give your parent some personal space.
Consider your parent’s point of view.
Your mum or dad is giving up privacy and space for you. They may be changing their house set up, their TV habits and their diet. Adaption takes time and patience.
Check in with your parent regularly to see how they think it’s working. Small problems can then be addressed.
Plan your role.
Are you there to shop and prepare meals? Are you there to drive your parent to appointments? What commitments do you have outside of the caring role, such as to children or a job?
Talk about what is realistic for you. Obviously, life throws some curve balls but in general this living arrangement will work better if expectations are clear from both sides.
Do a home safety check.
Many accidents can be prevented. With your parent’s help, assess the home environment for hazards. Look for dim lights and replace them. Check the switches are in convenient places.
Are door handles and taps easy to use? Are there tripping hazards such as uneven paths?
You can download home safety checklists from the internet or ask a home care provider to visit and do this safety check with you.
Talk about respite.
Many seniors are eligible for respite care once they have had an ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) assessment. Speak to your mum or dad about arranging this assessment as soon as you can.
Respite can happen at home. A carer will come in for a few hours or overnight to give you a break. It can also happen in an aged care facility.
Older people are often resistant to respite at first but once they meet a new carer, this person generally becomes a trusted and welcome visitor.
Do some research.
There are many organisations to help you in this role. One is Carers Queensland. This not-for-profit company is the peak body representing unpaid family and community carers in Queensland. They offer advice, training and support.
Carers Queensland has local offices in many south-east towns, including Logan, Coolangatta, North Lakes, Maroochydore and Gympie. Visit their website to find the best location for you. Their central phone number is 1300 747 636.
Caring for an elderly parent can bring unexpected costs. Some funding assistance is outlined on the Carers Queensland website. For instance there is the Continence Aids Payment Scheme and the Essential Medical Equipment Payment.
Make a plan B.
For various reasons, you may need time away from your role and another family member or a service may have to step in. Make some plans beforehand. If your parent has trouble remembering home routines, have these written down.
Prepare for hospital visits.
Elderly folk have more admissions to hospital than younger people. Common reasons are falls, dehydration and adverse reactions to medication.
Help your mum or dad pack an overnight bag in advance. Include a medication list and a list of doctors and specialists. This will save a lot of hassle.
Look into government funded services.
Many people believe if you are living with your parent as a carer, this parent is not eligible for government help through the Home Care Package program or the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. Not so.
Eligibility for these services is determined by an ACAT assessment. A team member comes to your home and assesses what help your parent needs in everyday living. Call 1800 200 442 or book an assessment online.
Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance. Email firstname.lastname@example.org