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Tips for seniors with adult children who have health challenges

Senior woman bringing a snack to a young girl doing homeworkFor many seniors, seeing their children and grandchildren is a regular situation, oftentimes because they are living under the same roof or providing continuous care. However, caring for your family can be a blessing and challenge for seniors who are trying to create a balance in their life. According to a Nationwide Retirement Institute study of adults over 50, 38% of those surveyed have their adult children living with them. If you are a senior living with or caring for adult children who have health challenges, it is important to understand the following tips to help make the situation easier.

Be as Autonomous as Possible

Some adult children with ADD, ADHD, or other issues may need assistance cooking and caring for the home. However, the goal is to be autonomous as possible, even with a child who has a disability. The more parents feel controlled by their adult children, the more parents will attempt to control their children. This creates a power struggle between adults which is a situation you want to avoid.

If you are feeling controlled, then you have a few choices. You can react to your children, resulting in an escalation of even the smallest debate, or you can be thoughtful and objective about managing the situation. Always speak in direct terms to get the point across and set times or dates to revisit the conversation when action is required.

Clearly Set Boundaries

As a senior, having children with health challenges can be difficult, regardless of the issue. When they were young, children required boundaries to keep them safe from the world. Now that they are adults, they can make a decision that can still impact you. For instance, leaving the kitchen a mess could make it more difficult for you to cook the next meal.

For this reason, you must set clear boundaries while they live in your home to avoid misunderstandings. Tensions can easily skyrocket if you have differing opinions about a line they have crossed. This can easily be avoided by setting boundaries and expectations. Stormont Vail Health identifies the following boundaries to discuss including:

  • Alcohol and tobacco usage
  • Having guests over who want to spend the night
  • Household chores
  • Quiet times

Caring for adult children with health issues presents its own set of challenges but setting boundaries will help limit the controllable issues. It is often also accommodating to have these boundaries in writing to ensure there is no confusion in the future. Most adults will be able to respect the requirements that they have previously signed on a document.

Do Not Over-Function Your Child

Some adult children, especially those with mental disabilities or chronic health challenges, are slower to mature than others. Developmentally, they are not prepared to care for themselves, hence the reason they are living at home. When your adult child has failed to mature, it may mean you have been over-functioning them since childhood. This means you are taking responsibility for activities they can perform themselves, like cleaning up messes or doing laundry.

There is a tremendous difference between assisting and over-functioning. Helping adult children means you are doing something for them that they cannot do themselves, like drive to a destination for them because of a health issue. Remember, when you over-function, you are perpetuating the negative behaviors which will compound and continue forever.

As a senior, you can control and change this behavior. The best course of action is to have a plan prepared and only help when necessary. This will force your child to act and complete mundane tasks where capable.

Find a Balance

If your adult child is capable of being on their own in the future, but perhaps needs a place to stay to overcome health challenges, then it is supportive to have their company. However, you must eventually encourage them to find a home or apartment for their independence. Discuss their goals and ask if there are skills they want to improve while at home. Striking a balance between enjoying extra time with your adult child but setting boundaries while living together could be complicated. However, it is better to set them as soon as possible than later down the road.

Manager Versus Consultant

When your child is at a young age, you act as a manager. You are regularly involved in the child’s daily life, taking a “hands-on” approach. However, as your child becomes an adult, your role is more of a consultant. While your adult child may be missing the term adult, you can still be helpful and check-in but never provide unsolicited advice. Asking how your child is doing and if there is anything you can assist with does not eliminate all accountability.

When you are caring for an adult child with health issues, they still must be accountable for their actions where possible. This relates to setting boundaries and letting them know you have every intention of enforcing them. Simultaneously, you must give them some autonomy and respect in the process.

Respect Your Child’s Independence

It may be difficult to admit but your little child has become a full-grown adult. This also means they are no longer teenagers or children, and you must respect this. Even though they may have health challenges that prevent them from finding a new apartment or working, they are still adults. You must always respect their independence while living under your roof. If they are following the agreed-upon household rules, refrain from judgments regarding their choices. This includes who they spend time with, what they eat, and how late they sleep.

Respecting their privacy to foster independent behavior is critical. On the other hand, if they are leaving food throughout the house and sleeping all day on the living room couch then do not be afraid to discuss respect for your house. Accountability is a huge part of increasing their independence. They should be treated like the adult they are, especially while living under your roof.

Caring for an adult child with health issues as a senior is certainly a challenge. There are many physical and emotional hurdles to overcome. Regardless of the situation, caregiving is all about setting boundaries while treating them as adults and ensuring they are held accountable for their actions while showing you the respect you deserve.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. If you want to find more articles by Patrick, you can find them on his personal blog or in Sunshine Behavioral Health.


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