Sitcoms have made fun of these situations for years – yet for families, the effect of an older relative moving in can be a real test of marriage. Older relatives, normally one of your parents, often come to stay because they are having difficulties caring for themselves. The early days can be particularly stressful as a new routine is often needed to handle the situation.
There are a number of issues that need to be understood in this situation. First, everyone should understand what is happening to their elderly relative. While they may not be in a position to look after themselves, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to. They will be quite frustrated initially, always wanting to help and often in denial when it comes to their abilities. For some, the reversal of roles can be difficult to come to terms with. For decades, they were your caregiver so to have that reversed can be belittling in their eyes.
For the household, a child often has to give up their room. Sometimes, this can be achieved with the youngster pleased that grandma or grandpa are sleeping in their bedroom. Teens, on the other hand, may well resent the situations, especially when forced to share a room with a sibling.
Counseling can help families get through these initial stages. However, the most important thing a family can do is to discuss the impending arrival and to put in place plans that will help to make the transition a smooth one. Too often, couples agree to take an older family member in, but then fail to plan for the changes that this move will bring. Older relatives can be a real strain on marriages – however, they don’t need to be.
When planning, don’t forget to include dispute resolution processes, and time out periods where you can both be alone for a couple of hours on a regular basis. A little planning will make life far easier for everyone, your elderly relative included.