Does Your Personal Life Cease To Exist When Your Elder Parent Moves In? / by Dr. Natalia P Zhikhareva

In the past, American culture has empathized the traditional nuclear family consisting of a pair of adults and their non-adult children.  These days, multigenerational households are becoming increasingly more common. 

As lifespans grow longer, health care costs rise, and financial inability to afford a home increases, more and more adults find themselves in a position to bring their aging parents into their home. 

A decision to share a household brings up variety of challenges ranging from financial to personal, with caregiving (a person involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks) being the most difficult.  Consider the following statistics:

·       More than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability (AARP, 2008).

·       An estimated 21% of households in the United States are impacted by caregiving responsibilities (NAC, 2004).

·       Unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 90%of the long-term care (IOM, 2008).

·       The typical caregiver is a 46-year-old woman with some college experience and provides more than 20 hours of care each week to her mother (NAC, 2004).

·       Caregivers report having difficulty finding time for one’s self (35%), managing emotional and physical stress (29%), and balancing work and family responsibilities (29%) (NAC, 2004).

Notice this statistics date from 2004 and 2008.  Imagine the potential increase in the numbers for the current date!  This poses a challenge not only for those who are currently in relationships or living together, but also for many singles who are seeking a relationship. 

Imagine going out on a first date with the weight of worry on your shoulders as you contemplate when to disclose your living situation?  How does one have a sexual life in the same house as their parent is living in?  Once the relationship progresses, when and how do you have a discussion on moving your partner into the shared household?  Most importantly, does your personal life cease to exist as your elder parent(s) move in? 

The answer is I don't know.  There are far more questions than answers on this growing national problem as more and more people find themselves in a similar position.  What I do know is that asking questions and thinking about potential options can often yield a solution, or at least offer a happy medium.

As you face the possibility of an aging parent moving in with you, or are currently faced with this situation, here are some important things to ask yourself as a single person seeking a relationship.

1.  What kind of care will the person need?  Are they physically capable of taking care of themselves or will they need care?  How much of your personal time can you allocate to the care of that individual without straining yourself?  If you start dating, will that alter your caregiving time?  As you answer, remember to be realistic about what you can and can’t do, know your limits and consider your schedule.

2.  Will you be able to adjust to the loss of some of the independence and perhaps the space and privacy you are used to have?  How can you set a boundary for yourself and most importantly, your space, without alienating anyone?

3.  How soon and how much should you disclose on the first date?  In a long run, would it matter if the person understood your situation or not?  Perhaps realizing that it matters may help deal with the potential rejection.

4.  Is there a better day and a time when to invite a date in to ensure your privacy?  Will a person living with you be able to accommodate to help preserve your privacy?  When is a good time to introduce them to your date?

These are just a beginning of the questions to start you on a path of evaluating your current or future situation in hopes of deriving at a solution.  Facing these challenges can be difficult, frustrating and alienating.  Most importantly, neglecting your personal life can affect your ability to provide care in the first place! 

A solution that might work for one person may not be right for another.  For this reason, it is important to continue asking yourself questions.  Sometimes, just realizing that others are going through the same thing can bring a sense of relief.

Now That You Know...some of the challenges faced with having an elder parent move in, don't forget about self-care!  Everybody needs respite and balance in their lives!

References

AARP, 2008: Houser, A., et al., AARP Public Policy Institute, Valuing the Invaluable: The Economic Value of Family Caregiving, 2008 Update, 2008, http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-11-2008/i13_caregiving.html

IOM, 2008: Institute on Medicine, Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce, April 2008, www.nap.edu/catalog/12089.html

NAC, 2004: National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP, Caregiving in the U.S., 2004, http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/il/us_caregiving_1.pdf