In a multigenerational household, you'll find yourself reversing roles: you'll become your parent's caregiver, and your parent will become a dependent. You might be faced with feelings of stress and depression, but rest assured that there are rewards, too.
When you take your parents into your home, you often lose sight of the fact that your roles have reversed. You need to recognize that you are now a caregiver -- and that can produce some stress. In this situation, you may start to feel overwhelmed with parenting your parent while also trying to parent your children at the same time.
Here are a few tips on how to cope with the roller coaster of emotions that might come with this experience.
Keep Outside Ties Strong
When you first bring your parent or parents into your home, it's easy to forget that you have an outside life that includes friends, hobbies, and "me time." Many caregivers start to focus only on what goes on under their roof and gradually cut ties to the outside world. This mistake can make you feel suffocated and isolated. You need to keep your outside relationships strong. Go out to lunch or shopping with friends. Take a day at the spa for yourself. Avoid cutting yourself off from the world and continue doing things that make you happy. You should also include your parents and children in activities outside the home, such as sporting events, school activities, or even weekly shopping.
Stay Physically Strong
When creating a multigenerational household, you might start to overdo everything and forget important aspects of keeping yourself physically strong, such as having balanced meals, taking time for exercise, and getting enough sleep. Keeping yourself physically strong will help you stay healthy mentally, too. Remember that there is nothing wrong with focusing on yourself and the needs of your body.
Caring for an aging parent can be stressful, but it also brings peace of mind. You'll know that your parents are safe and loved under your roof instead of being cared for by strangers. Such peace of mind is priceless and can help you reduce the stress you might experience from time to time. Focus on the knowledge that your parents are in the best caring hands they can be in -- yours.
Working Through the Past and Present
In some cases, the past might affect how you feel about your parents. Maybe you were never that close in the past. Or maybe the years have caused a gulf in the relationship. In some cases, your parents might often drive you crazy. In such situations, it'll take work to build a deeper relationship, but as a family unit you can strive to overcome the obstacles, even if it means seeking outside counseling. You might also want to plan and participate in family focused functions and outings to strengthen the family bond.
Reap the Emotional Rewards
Sharing your parents' golden years together provides strong emotional rewards for you, your children, and your parents. Your relationships will deepen, and you can get to know your parents on a level you might otherwise never have reached. Even your children will benefit by enjoying a deeper rapport with their grandparents than they would have if they did not all live under the same roof. Emotional closeness may not come quickly, and you may have to work for it, but it's worth it.
AARP reports that 16.7% of people in the US are currently living in a multigenerational household. With the Sandwich Generation reality becoming more widespread, there are numerous caregiver support groups arising. Caregivers can come together to share rewards, trials, and coping skills. Such a support group is often the ideal way to help you learn to successfully handle the stress of being your parent's caregiver.
AARP: 3 Generations Under One Roof