What happens when an aging parent can no longer live alone? Some families can afford assisted living or a nursing home, but others can’t. For many people, the solution is to have that person come live with them. According to the AARP, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of multi-generational households.
The problem, of course, is that bringing someone new into your home – even if it’s someone you love dearly – can cause issues for the entire family. The situation may be further complicated if the person who is moving in is an in-law.
Even if your relationship with your in-law is a difficult one, there are some common-sense things you can do to ease the transition and make the living situation palatable for everyone involved.
Make Communication a Priority
When problems arise in multi-generational households, they are often the result of poor communication. You might think that you’re getting another adult in the house who will help with chores or act as a live-in babysitter. Your in-law might have other ideas.
The only way to know what the expectations are, (and to bring them in line with reality), is to sit down and talk about it. It might not be realistic for an elderly parent to vacuum or do laundry. They might not be physically able to do certain things.
And, while communication before the move is essential, it’s no less important after your loved one is ensconced in your home. Scheduling regular family meetings can help minimize misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Set Clear Boundaries
Boundaries are crucial in every healthy relationship. When your loved one moves in, it’s natural that the household dynamics will change. However, you’ve still got to make your core family a priority.
For example, who will discipline your kids if they misbehave? How will they be disciplined? Your in-law might have spanked their children as a punishment. If you don’t believe in corporal punishment for children, you’ll have to make it clear that spanking is not okay with you.
Setting boundaries can also help you set aside time for family meals and outings. While you will want to include your in-law in some activities, you don’t have to include them in everything. You, your spouse, and your kids will need time without them – and it’s healthy to insist upon it.
Getting the Help You Need
We all experience declines in our health as we age. If your in-law is going to be living with you for the long-term, you’ll need to be aware of changes in their health. It’s a good idea to talk to their doctors so you can arrange for help if you need it.
An in-law who’s able to take care of themselves may take a turn for the worse. You may find that the strain of caring for them is too much for you to handle alone. There’s a condition known as compassion fatigue, a kind of chronic stress that affects caregivers. It can be exhausting to take care of an aging relative even if it’s someone you love.
Remember that there is help available. Hiring a home health aide can ease your burden and make compassion fatigue less likely. You may also want to consider hiring a lawyer if you’re blending your finances. Arguments over money are common but can be avoided if you address them head-on.
Having an in-law move into your home can be stressful, but it’s important to remember that you have some control even when it feels like you don’t. If you make communication a priority, set healthy boundaries, and get help when you need it, you can minimize your stress and maintain a good relationship with your live-in family member.
Renting a storage unit can help assist you with making more room for your new housemate.