Are you planning to start living with older parents? Whether it’s for practical reasons, care, a combination of both, or something entirely different, this can be quite a difficult transition period! Your parents may be struggling with numerous aging issues, which can make interacting with them more challenging.
More difficult still, your entire parent-child dynamic is changing! Gone are the days when, as a child, you depended on them for guidance and the necessities of life, and long ago are the days when everything they said was a hard and fast rule to follow. This is a considerable change from what is “normal” from what you and your parents are used to, which can be very stressful to navigate.
So how can you manage these changes and navigate the changing structure of your bond with your parents? Here are four positive ways to live in harmony with elderly parents.
1. Communicate well
Communication is essential to any harmonious relationship, but positive communication can be difficult when you live with elderly parents. There may be cognitive deficits that make conversations difficult. There may be stubbornness and fear that lead to unproductive arguments. Perhaps there are even frustrations and old emotional hurts that further cloud the table.
Remember that your parents are more than just parents – they are human beings with feelings, thoughts, and opinions, and they want those things to be validated. They are trying to deal with the change of moving in together, just like you; for that reason, positive communication is necessary as personalities collide and spaces change. Here are some tips for healthy communication with your aging parents:
Practice empathy, always
Empathy it is the key to living in harmony with aging parents. With changing dynamics, the frustration of aging, and added responsibilities, there will be many things that will require your patience, understanding, and compassion. There will be times when you will feel frustrated, and that is when you should bring kindness and empathy to the forefront of your mind. Put yourself in the shoes of your parents and seek to understand their point of view.
Be patient and persistent
When you mention something, it’s okay if it doesn’t get resolved right away. Many complex topics may require breaking them down into more digestible parts for your parents, particularly if these topics can arouse fear in them. Don’t expect everything to be fixed the first time you mention it. Persistently revisit the topic with patience and your conversations will become productive.
Ask them questions
It’s easy to talk to your parents instead of talking to them as they get older, as they may not communicate with them when you start out. Encourage them to participate by asking questions that give them a chance to think and reflect. Use open-ended questions when addressing complex topics, and try to truly listen and understand their answers.
· Use “I” statements
When you need to bring up a sensitive or difficult topic, avoid creating a conflict by using first-person statements. These statements focus on your concerns rather than sounding accusatory, which can avoid arguments. For example, instead of saying, “You are not eating enough. I should eat more! “Say,” I am concerned that you haven’t eaten all of your meals and I am concerned that you are not eating enough. Your parents are likely the ones used to being in control and having the last word, so presenting difficult comments or topics in this way allows them to adapt to the change in dynamics with positive thinking.
2. Draw lines and boundaries
Depending on how you were raised, there is a chance that you weren’t having as many boundaries with your parents growing up. Regardless of how that helped or hurt you back then, the fact is that now, the lack of boundaries is sure to damage your home.
Studies show that clear boundaries are crucial to living in a space with the family. After all, they are healthy and important to all relationships, and your relationship with your parents is no different. Here are some ways to draw lines and boundaries so that you can live with your elderly parents in harmony:
Set expectations quickly
From the beginning, you should set some expectations with your parents about how your home will be handled with your parents. This is especially true if you also live with other family members besides your parents. What areas are private personal spaces? What areas are shared? Who is in charge of what responsibilities, from a household, financial and caregiving perspective? Setting expectations is challenging, but crucial for everyone’s sanity!
Don’t fall for old patterns
There are many patterns between parents and children that can last from your youth. Please don’t fall into the trap of repeating them. Your parents don’t need to know every detail of your life. They have no voice in all your waking moments and they definitely cannot veto your personal decisions about your own life. At the same time, you shouldn’t rely on them for feedback, instructions, and validation, and you don’t need to ask their permission to do things. Everyone here is an adult and deserves to be treated as such, so don’t fall into patterns that infantilize you.
Keep living your life
You have new responsibilities now that you live with your parents. But you also have your old ones. You must continue to maintain the lifestyle that you have always had, including your routines, social relationships, work, diet, and commitments. You had a life before they moved in with you and you should continue to have that life, even if you need to make some adjustments. This family routine also ensures that you will maintain health and positive thinking to make you a better caregiver.
Don’t expect them to change
While the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a bit of a stretch, it’s worth noting that many parents are stubborn and can get stuck in their ways. If your parents ultimately decide that they don’t want to change a habit or behavior that may not be the best for them, if it’s their personal decision, you will have to respect it. Apply context and nuances here to make the right decision, and practice simple acceptance when necessary.
3. Ask for outside support when needed
Don’t try to be a hero when it comes to caring for and living with elderly parents! There is not ashamed to need help When the going gets tough Outside support can be your lifeline, especially on particularly difficult days. Here are some forms of outside support you can take advantage of:
· Talk with friends
Whether you need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent, or some advice from a third party, your friends (and partner in your relationship, if applicable) can provide external input and support. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone outside of your family can be instrumental in helping you get through this transition phase of your life.
Bring other family members
If you have siblings or other people linked to your parents in any way, you can bring them to help you when necessary. It is a good idea to set expectations, limits, and agreements in advance so that all family members are satisfied with the outcome. Just make sure that you and the person you bring are on the same page and that you can completely trust them with your parenting!
Seek counseling or therapy
The changing dynamics of living with elderly parents can be stressful and emotional. Sometimes you need extra help from mental health professionals to process and regulate these new feelings. The help you get from therapy or counseling can help you move on and prevent resentment from developing in your home.
Get professional care help
If your parents require care that you can’t do because of your job or other commitments, don’t try to add that care to your plate anyway. Talk to your parents about the need for additional professional help. Explain the benefits they will be able to receive from a trained caregiver. It is essential to use our aforementioned communication tips to discuss this with your parents, as you will want them to agree to professional help. That prospect can scare them. So be sure to maintain a good relationship with the professionals you hire and listen to your parents if they have complaints or request a change of care!
4. Don’t lose sight of the fun
Living with elderly parents is not entirely serious. It can also be fun. With all the changes you face, you and your parents deserve the opportunity to have fun. Your parents are still your parents, no matter how old they are. So the family love they share is something they will continue to have, even in this new chapter of all their lives.
People sometimes make the mistake of forgetting to enjoy the time they spend with their parents, especially in new living arrangements. You can make the most of these moments and cherish the time you spend with your family members in the twilight of their lives! After all, every moment you spend with family is one to be thankful for.
So spend time with your parents, watch movies and shows together, have good meals together, and search activities in which everyone can participate at the same time. Try to take advantage of the things you have in common, respect the autonomy of others, and try to make each day fun and happy for everyone involved.
Final thoughts on some positive ways of living with elderly parents
It can be challenging to start living with older parents. Finding a way to strengthen, maintain, and build better, healthier bonds with them can be tricky. But like all parts of life, it’s just a chapter you need to adjust to, and the concept is no different from any other challenge you’ve faced.
As time goes on, you will learn to navigate this new phase of all of your lives. With communication, boundaries, outside support, and the continual creation of fun bonding moments, you and your parents can live together in harmony.