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Living Together Meaningfully

Many parents are uncomfortable living in their children\’s home – the feeling that they\’re an imposition – especially if they have nothing to do. Most parents don\’t want to feel like guests, yet it\’s a fine line between helping and interfering.

This is an actual story . . .

“After my husband\’s death, my daughter invited me to live with her and her husband in their new large house, 125 miles away. Actually, I was the one who suggested it because at the time it appeared that her husband was going to be taking a job with such a long commute that he could only come home on weekends. As it turned out, that job did not materialize and both of them worked from home. Had his original job come through, I would have probably taken care of the household, certainly the meals because my daughter doesn\’t like to cook and I do. But since her husband also likes to cook and he was home almost every day, I spent little time in the kitchen. I found other things to do to help such as walking the dog and walking to the road to get the mail. However, after 6 months of being bored out of my mind, it was clear that it wasn\’t working as we all had hoped and I moved into an apartment.”

The example above was written by a young senior (mid 60s) who still has all her faculties, can safely drive her car, and 30-40 more years ahead of her. She also had the option of Moving out. However, if your loved one has moved in with you because it\’s no longer safe or possible for them to live alone, then integrating them into your household is key.

Most want to help in some way but not just busy work – they want to help in meaningful ways. So what are some meaningful ways?

When deciding how to share the responsibilities, consider the following:

1) What is your aging loved one capable of doing? And remember these capabilities will change over time.

If your loved one can\’t do the entire task, perhaps they can do part of it – with accommodations. For example: If they want to do the laundry but can\’t handle the big bottles or boxes, either pre-pour the laundry detergent for them or decant from bigger boxes/bottles into smaller containers they can handle more easily. If that\’s too much for them, then perhaps you might just have them fold.

2) Is the task something you really want to do? No matter how much they may love to do something, if, as in the example above, it is something that a current member of the household also loves to do, you don\’t have to give it up. However, you might consider sharing the responsibilities. For example, maybe your aging loved one can cook one or two meals a week.

However, if your loved one wants to cook but no longer can, then obviously that should not be one of their tasks no matter how much they may love it. If that\’s the case, maybe they can do some of the preparation work (if they\’re ok working with a knife) or help with the shopping.

3) Is the task something you feel very strongly needs to be done in a particular way? I always laugh when I hear a new mother ask her husband to do her a “favor” by changing diapers. Then he does it “wrong” (not her way) so she takes the job back and then resents doing all the work. (I figure if they do it “wrong”, they\’ll figure it out and do it again!)

The point is, when your aging loved one is taking over a task, either explain exactly how you want it done or let them do it their way – even if their way is different from yours. If the end result works just fine but is just different from how you do it, walk away and let them do it.

Or perhaps you can share the task. If you have a way you want something done – loading the dishwasher, for example – and feel very strongly about it – then maybe they can be in charge of unloading it.

HOWEVER: If you feel very strongly about how everything is done, then don\’t be surprised if you\’re doing all the work and your loved one is -.

4) It\’s also ok to share tasks no one wants to do. I hate cleaning my kitchen. It\’s a tiny New York kitchen with floor space less than 4 ft by 3 ft but I hate doing it! Other people hate cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, or dusting. (I\’m not too crazy about any of those either!) If no one likes to do those chores, then share them all equally. If you just can\’t ask your aging loved one to take their turn cleaning all the bathrooms, then leave it that they will always clean their own.

Perhaps your aging loved one can pack the kid\’s lunches for school. If you feel that it\’s safe for them to drive, maybe they can pick up the kids from school, do yard work, or take care of the pets. Other “jobs” might include sorting and labeling old pictures.

The key to successfully living together is finding meaningful ways for them to be part of the household. Think of it this way . . . how often do you have someone who wants to help around the house?

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving™ 2009 You can find information about how to talk with your aging loved ones in “The Ultimate Caregiver\’s Success System” by going to www.AgeWiseLiving.com. While there, sign up for Barbara\’s free monthly newsletter. You can also contact Barbara by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is the country\’s leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University and host of Age Wise Living radio show on VoiceAmerica.com.

Barbara E. Friesner Generational Coach

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.

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