Somewhere between Millennials and the Baby Boomers lies Gen X, or the sandwich generation. A growing number of people have children living at home and are finding themselves having to take care of an elderly parent.
Making space for an elderly parent can be daunting. For many, it means leaving a place that they've called home for years, if not decades. Opening your home to them might feel like a kind gesture, and it is, but it might not feel like it when you're purging them of some of their most prized possessions or when you are dragging them, almost literally kicking and screaming, from their own space.
When you were growing up, your parents never made you feel like guests in your own home. Your elderly parents deserve at least that much.
Don't decorate without your elderly parent's input.
If possible, spend a few days with them in their home and learn what matters to them. That 20-year-old recliner might be ugly and tattered, but if that's where your father spends much of his waking time, take it with you. That 10-year-old TV might not be the latest in technology, but your mother knows the remote like the back of her hand.
Some of those pictures or the knick-knacks might seem like junk to you, but they might be your parent's only connection to their childhood.
Your elderly parent has a lifetime of possessions and you have limited space. That leaves you two options, purge or store. If you choose to move your parent's belongings into storage, most moving companies can accommodate you. If, however, you choose to purge, be kind. NextAvenue.org recommends the "4 Boxes" approach. Put four boxes in each room.
1) “Keep Until I Die” For items with sentimental value, such as family heirlooms, personal letters, wedding china and photo albums.
2) “Appraise and Sell” For unwanted items of value.
3) “Keep with Me” For unsentimental items, such as furniture and art.
4) “Garage Sale/Donate” For unwanted items.
Then, go room by room with your parents, sorting their possessions.For bigger items that won’t fit in boxes — like furniture, pianos and workout equipment — consider putting pictures of them on index cards and then dropping the cards in the appropriate boxes.
Prepare your home
If you have room to make an "in-law suite," perfect, but if not, clean out a room close to a bathroom. Make sure the room is well-lit and use a nightlight to light the way to the bathroom. Add a safety bar in the bathtub.
If your parent is unsteady, add safety rails on the bed and handrails on walls. Levers are much easier on arthritic hands than doorknobs.
Even if you do everything perfectly, there will be an adjustment period. Your spouse and children may love your elderly parent, but they have never lived with them. It can be tough juggling everyone's needs, but after a while, you will settle into a routine and your life will be made richer.
Featured image via Pixnio.