60 is the new 40. People are living longer and our perception of when old age begins has been redefined in recent years. Age is just a number but there may come a time when it proves just too difficult for your elderly relative to stay in their own home but neither are they quite ready for the round-the-clock care that a residential home can supply. There’s a welcome positive change in attitude towards elderly people and not before time. Older people have lived, they have wisdom and lessons they can pass on to their children (and more importantly – their grandchildren) so having them come to live with you is a positive step. However, like any close family relationship it can be difficult at times. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of having an elderly relative come to stay and how you can make life easier for all.
It’s Good to Have Family Around
Maybe your relative feels lonely living by themselves. Maybe you worry about them being on their own. By having your relative come to stay, you can actually remove that part of your daily stress knowing that you’re doing all you can for them. However, make sure that this is a decision that your elderly relative is happy with and that they’re not being cajoled into it just to ease your conscience otherwise there’ll be resentment down the track.
Older People Know Loads of Stuff
This isn’t meant to be a patronising statement but sometimes older people don’t get the respect they deserve. Wisdom and life experience come with the passing of years and lots of elderly relatives have lots of info tucked away in their mental-filing cabinets that could prove useful to you. This might include everything from making the best homemade grub to treating childhood illnesses. Also, older people are less likely to panic when a crisis hits because the chances are high that they’ve been through it before and can help you cope.
Bonding With the Grandchildren
Most grandparents have a natural bond with their grandchildren which can be a good and a bad thing. When your children visit their grandparents in their own home it’s the norm for them to be spoiled to an extent. In fact, if you read any job description of a grandparent, it’s there in the small print! However, problems can arise if your relative comes to live and starts undermining your authority. It’s your home and your rules; but, what if you’re wrong? Maybe another adult point of view is a good thing!
The best way to avoid unnecessary conflict is to agree some points in advance which means that you’re never undermined in front of your children, but you can still discuss the issue together privately to help resolve it. After all, it’s your children’s emotional wellbeing that’s important, not your ego, and your elderly relative should feel that they can contribute positively to their upbringing.
Put your oxygen mask on first
When you’re on an aeroplane and the cabin crew give their spiel before take-off, they always state that ‘if there’s a sudden loss in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will automatically appear; put your on first before helping others’. It’s the same with having a relative to stay (in fact in any situation where you feel you need to give support). If you don’t look after your own physical and emotional health as a priority, then you won’t be in a position to help others when they need it most. So, don’t feel guilty about taking time out for yourself. Go the gym, spin-class, paint or do anything else that makes you feel good because it will pay dividends in the long run.
You both need your own space
Rather than just a spare room. It’s a good idea to give your relative their own, self-contained living space which will help them retain their independence. This can anything from a garage conversion to a full-blown extension, depending on available space and budget. A new product on the market is the spaceKube from Edinburgh-based home-improvement company Ekco. The spaceKube is a custom-designed extension which is built off-site and then fitted to the home. The main benefits, according to the Edinburgh Kitchen Company, are that it takes just weeks to complete instead of months, and is much cheaper than a traditional extension without any compromise on quality. You can also add an en-suite, underfloor heating and even bi-fold doors to make it totally plush.
If you are thinking of adding an extension as a ‘granny flat’ but are struggling to pay for it, you could always increase your mortgage. A decent extension will add around 11% to the value of your property so it may well be worth considering. Alternatively, maybe your relative would be happy to sell their own home, pitch in with the cost and invest the rest to give them a tidy sum to enjoy the next few years of their lives. They might even treat the family to a Friday night takeaway once they’ve settled in to their new home!