After a few years with Alzheimer’s, mom had no boundaries, really. We were her care partners at first. As the disease progressed, we became her caregivers. We took care of all her needs. Our boundaries were just the limits of our abilities.
My in-laws are much more independent than my mom was. Neither of them has any cognitive diagnosis. We knew we would need to and could set boundaries, physical and emotional. My husband and I created a little living room in our bedroom. That way we could eat alone or watch a movie or show that we like in the evening. This has helped a lot since they prefer to watch only the news.
Before my mother-in-law moved in, we were discussing meals, and she thought we could eat most of our meals together. My husband and I both work from home. We see them all day. We thought that would be a proper boundary: Let’s not have meals together by default. Now, I tend to make large meals and offer for them to have some, and they usually will. However, we don’t have a standing dinner appointment. This boundary is working for us at the moment.
There is also the boundary of your relationship with your spouse. You need to be able to have a space where you both can talk freely. You need space to be your weird married selves. You need to have alone time. So, another (boundary for us) is: Upstairs is off-limits to the in-laws. Then have their bedroom, dining room, living room, laundry room, and all the porch and deck space – just let us have the upstairs to ourselves.
No matter your relationship, it may be beneficial to have a written document stating what their rent is and what it covers. For us, we find that including all rent, utilities, internet, cable, phones, and some food into one payment works well.
If your parents are independent and able to do everything (or mostly) on their own – then let them – don’t try to take care of them. That day may come soon enough. Find ways to keep them as independent as possible. Be aware that as you take this leap into the vast cavern of living together, the situation will change. It could be quick or slow. You go from being a roommate to a caregiver, so be prepared. Get to know their preferences, their doctors, medications, and how they want to live, so if the day comes when you need to care for them, you and they will be ready.
“We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box.” -Robert Fulghum
By Karen Stobbe