Can your community and extended family provide the support that you will need?
The first issue to come up will be transportation. If your parent is still driving, this won’t be an issue initially, but if he’s no longer behind the wheel, how will he get around? In many communities throughout the Washington area, being without a car is a real problem. You may never have thought about the implications of being carless in your area, and you’ll have to assess it from this new perspective, said Paula Span, author of “When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions.”
Among the considerations, she said: Is your community walkable? Is your house on a bus line with a stop close by? The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s MetroAccess offers paratransit service for seniors and people with disabilities. You’ll need to check with the agency to find out whether it’s available in your area.
A transportation solution that does not include driving your parent everywhere will make things immensely easier for you and help to preserve your parent’s sense of independence. Equally important, it solves the problem of how to get your parent to places where he can interact with others and avoid social isolation, another critical issue that must be addressed when a parent lives with an adult child, Span said.
If your parent is only moving across town, he will still have his friends and social networks intact. But if your parent is moving some distance to be with you, he’ll have to make new friends and find new activities. A younger parent may be able to do this easily, and, by helping with child care and meal prep, to carve out a role in your household as well, Span said. But an older parent is less likely to be able to contribute and may need help in making new friends. A good source for both friends and activities is a senior center. Does your community have one, and what services does it offer?
Barry Jacobs, a Philadelphia author (“The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers”) and psychotherapist who works with many families caring for aging parents, said making connections at a senior center not only helps your parent, but it also helps you. By developing some outside interests, a parent won’t be so dependent on you and your family for stimulation.
Outside stimulation is especially important if you are still working, Jacobs said. Leaving your parent alone all day often leads to depression and other health issues, and for this reason, he urges adult children to get their parent involved in local support systems for seniors as quickly as possible.