Two months ago, my mother lost her husband to cancer. After almost three decades of matrimony and never having to pay a bill herself, she found herself alone, in debt, living in a house she could no longer afford on her social security.
After I found out she had an estate sale, where she even sold her refrigerator to earn some cash, I said enough was enough. I told my wife that during my upcoming vacation, I would fly to South Carolina to pick her up and drive back to Texas where she would live with us until she decided her next move.
She’s been with us about a month now, and it’s a large transition for everyone—my mom most of all. However, it’s been great to have her around, and we simply hope to make her transition into her life’s new chapters as easy as possible for her.
If and when your family ever finds themselves at the point when it’s time to take in your elderly loved one, here are three simple tips to make the transition a little easier for everyone:
1. Talk about everything
Don’t assume anything. From groceries, the new household schedule, who’s cooking what and how often, food allergies, sleeping arrangements, to what toothpaste to keep around now.
When you add people under your roof, things change. And you can’t assume things will be the same simply because it’s technically your house.
Communication sets the expectations and helps make them clear for everyone. If you don’t speak on it, everyone is free to imagine their own expectations and judge everyone else based on things unsaid—basically a recipe for disaster in any scenario.
During the two-day drive from South Carolina to Texas, I asked my mom about everything. I wanted to make sure we were as accommodating to her as she was planning to be for my wife and I.
2. Make sure everyone feels at home
Home means different things for everyone. For some, it’s being able to have a nice cup of coffee in the morning in silence. For others, it’s being able to curl in front of their favorite Netflix shows every evening after their routine diet soda. And for others, it’s simply being around the people they care about the most.
Whatever makes the new addition to your household feel at home, be sure to do what you can to include their way of life. A total permanent change of scenery can be a dramatic shift for almost anyone, and when you invite someone into your house, you’re also inviting them into your home. There’s a difference.
For my mother, home is where she gardens. So we’re building raised garden beds for her to plant and tend to a robust menu of fruits, herbs and vegetables as her new season begins.
3. Be bluntly honest
Even with the best of intentions, the hard truth is: not everyone can live under the same roof.
Most of us would be surprised with how well we can manage adding another person to your household. But..even under perfect circumstances, the mix can still cause a headache for all. And when it gets bed, everyone involved get be on the verge of collapse.
When it’s not working, you have to acknowledge when it’s not working and work toward a common goal—hopefully that’s peace under the same roof.
But even with a common goal, not everyone agrees with how we all should get there. Sometimes getting there together takes more work than we’re willing to realize or put in.
Sometimes, we won’t get there together. Either way, we have to admit the truth when it stares us in the face.
I’m extremely privileged to move my mother in during her deepest time of need. And the truth is: she goes through more hard days than good ones, but I’m simply grateful I have a home she can rest in soundly.
This new chapter is new for all of us, but this is the role of a child. Our parents took care of us when we couldn’t care for ourselves, and the circle of life demands we do what we can when our caretakers need the same from us. The only constant is change, and those who can’t bend…break.
For ourselves, we’re looking forward to whatever this great change brings us. Cheers to new chapters.
BMWK, have you had to move a parent into your home? What other tips can you offer?