Sharing a home with aging parents can be an adjustment for family caregivers. Private spaces become extra bedrooms or living areas are modified to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. Adult children and their families may wish to evaluate their living areas to determine if certain modifications can accommodate the needs of their aging parents while maintaining a home that meets the needs of other family members.
It’s important to maintain a sense of home and personal living space while meeting the mobility, dietary and lifestyle needs of your loved one.
Homes can get crowded
Caregivers may appreciate the fact that the stair chair makes moving Mom up and down the stairs so much easier, but it also makes it hard to maneuver the stairs with a basket of dirty laundry. The calendar is so full of Dad’s doctor appointments that there’s no room to write in important personal events. The wheelchair and the bathtub chair are essential, but they do get in the way. The closets are crammed full of clothes and the washing machine is overloaded with them. Caregivers may need to buy so many items for their loved ones’ special diets that there’s little room in the cupboards for the things that they really like.
A person’s physical living space and how he or she connects to it can have a big impact on mental well-being, which can in turn have an impact on physical well-being. When a person feels “at home” in his or her home, that person is simply likely to feel better and to think and act more productively.
What can you do?
If you are in a situation in which your home is no longer your own, here are a few tips that may help:
- Write down what is important to you. Do you need to reclaim the den as your own? How about a closet that is dedicated just to your clothing? Can you live with the home care equipment in the living room, as long as it’s in its proper place and is not creating clutter?
- Itemize the list. After you have a complete list, put the items in order of importance.
- Pick the items that are absolutely essential. You may not be able to accomplish everything that’s on your list, so choose the items that have the biggest impact on your personal quality of life.
- See what changes you can make. If you can check off all of the most important items, that’s great; however, if there are some important changes that you can’t make, see if you can find a way to still make an improvement. You need the stair chair, but perhaps your spouse will agree to carry laundry down the stairs for you. You may have no option but to keep the wheelchair in the living room when it’s not in use, but maybe painting the living room will make it more inviting for you.
The important thing is to remember that your home is your home, even when it is home to others as well. Finding ways to make it as comforting and comfortable as possible will make you happier, healthier, and an even better caregiver.