1. People & Relationships

Elderly Care for Parents and In-Laws

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Make major decisions together.

No one wants to poison her marriage with resentment. That's why both spouses have to be satisfied with the decisions being made and the level of commitment to the relative in need of care. The last thing you want is for your spouse to feel as though you've chosen your parents over him or her. Jon and Kae Tienstra have been caring for Jon's parents for sometime now.

After Jon's father passed away, he convinced his mom to move near him and his wife in Pennsylvania. Caring for his father who lived far away was difficult and set the couple back about two years with their public relations and literary services business, says Kae. Moving his mom to an apartment near their home was more convenient for everyone. We can rest at night knowing where she is, says Kae. Although Kae didn't have much of a relationship with her in-laws before, she is pleased with the decision to move her at-first reluctant mother-in-law, whom she has grown fond of. Kae attributes teamwork with helping the couple get through it all. "Marry your best friend," she says. "It was a matter of being a united front with two difficult people."

Set boundaries and give each other privacy.

Most loved ones, especially parents, never want to be a burden to anyone, says Jacobs. But the time, energy, and money required for their care can sometimes infringe unwittingly on your marriage. Especially if you are living together or need to be in each other's homes for long periods of time, setting boundaries is a must. Salach recalls her grandfather taking it upon himself to report on her stepchildren's every move and walking around nude - and sometimes falling - in public areas of the house. She quickly set some rules to prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future.

In addition, Salach put up a shower curtain in the living area to give her grandfather some privacy. Maintaining the independence of the relative you're helping to the extent that it is possible is a necessity. Parents don't want their kids telling them what to do, after all. Giving them some freedom can also inspire loved ones, depending on their health, to help with the family or keep up an active lifestyle.

In fact, Billings had moved his mother-in-law into his house, when she was 58. When she turned 62 and was eligible for assisted living, she moved out on her own because she wanted her independence and didn't want to live with her 2- and 4-year-old grandchildren, who were young and required extra care themselves.

Make time for yourselves.

Just about everyone who has had to deal with taking care of an aging parent or relative suggests that couples set aside time to be alone with each other. Staying connected is of the utmost importance, as is stress relief. "You must maintain the time and space to nurture your marriage," says Jacobs. "Otherwise, you run the risk of being unable to grow as a couple."

Date night or even a vacation or weekend getaway can help you demonstrate your love of your spouse and gives you the chance to unwind. Couples therapy is necessary for some people, says Fatoullah. Those who are caring for relatives with terminal illnesses or living with aging or sick relatives might be under more stress, which could require additional support. The bottom line is that you have to do whatever it takes to protect your marriage.

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