by Bob Kohut
Between the longer life expectancies of our senior citizens and the rising costs of residential senior care, more and more children are bringing one or both of their parents into their homes. While there are no identical circumstances, many situations involve overcoming parental resistance to idea of leaving the warmth and familiarity of their current living arrangements. Another major objection many parents have is they don’t want to be a burden.
Instead of constantly arguing with your parents about such a move, here’s another idea. Start having them to your home for sleepovers. The plan is simple in concept, but admittedly difficult in execution.
You want to get your parents comfortable with being in your home, one little step at a time. If you think this is the stupidest idea you’ve ever heard, stop for a moment and think again.
You won’t be asking them to move in; only to stay the night. And the best time to begin your campaign is on a holiday, when they will probably be at your home anyway.
Let your mom or dad know they’ll be doing you a favor by sleeping over on Christmas Eve or Christmas night so you won’t have to drive them home, If they’re still driving, let them know staying over will eliminate the need to drive at night and to allow you all to spend more time together. Here are four things to do to help make this idea work:
- Turn a Guest Bedroom into a “Memory Room”.
- Take Advantage of Your Parent’s Love of Story Telling.
- Get Other Family Members Involved.
- Let Mom or Dad Help Out.
Turn a Guest Bedroom into a “Memory Room”
You’re going to need a bedroom for your mom or dad anyway so get it ready as the first step in the campaign. Clean out the closets and drawers to ensure your folks won’t think they’re taking up space you need. Gradually, as you have more sleepovers you can get them to leave some clothes at your home.
The “Memory Room” idea I got from my own mother who turned a wall at the side of her bed into a family picture gallery. She told me as the end of the line approached she was spending more and time reliving old memories. She would lie in bed and gaze at the pictures and dream of times past. I was pleasantly surprised at the positive results. It reinforced her belief that she had led a good life. I later learned the eighth stage of life development posited by psychologist Erik Erikson is retrospection. So dig up some family pictures and hang them.
Take Advantage of Your Parent’s Love of Story Telling
One of the really positive aspects of old age not enough of us think about is the fact that seniors are living history books. As a boy I remember my mother telling me tales she had heard from her great grandfather, who was a Cossack in Ukraine and fought both the Russians and the Polish. She witnessed pogroms in her small village and those stories I had her tell to my children as well.
Let your folks tell their stories. If you’ve heard them before; be patient enough to hear them again. Ask them their memories of historical events they lived through. What was the Great Depression like? What did they do during the War? Ask them what life was like before television.
Chances are your folks are already reliving their pasts in their minds. They would love to share them with you. We all have to have a purpose in life. If you believe in the ides of stages of life, there is little future to look forward to at the end, so seniors turn to the past. By providing a warm and accepting environment in which they can spin their memories aloud you’re reinforcing what may be their reason for living.
Get Other Family Members Involved
If you start with a holiday, try to get your extended family to your home to share in the storytelling portion of the evening. If you’re successful and the first sleepover leads to a second, encourage any siblings or other relatives in the area to join you for dinner or just desert and story telling. If you have children still at home, have them stick around to listen to grandma or grandpa.
Let Mom or Dad Help Out
Finally, most seniors like to feel useful, so let them help out with the evening. Have mom help with the appetizers or the dinner. Don’t treat them like guests but like family members who are expected to make a contribution. That’s the whole point of the campaign – to make your folks feel like a valued part of your family, not a bothersome intruder.