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Young adult children sometimes boomerang back to the safety of a parent’s home when money is tight, the going is tough or difficult times loom. Decades later, middle-aged children often become the safety net for their parents. For some aging parents, the right move is into their adult child’s home.
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Multigenerational living can be a marvelous bonding experience, a chance for you to know your parent in a new way. It helps your aging parent avoid the sense of isolation and depression that may come with living alone. By this time in life, however, you both have established ways of doing things. Your likes, dislikes, values and personalities have evolved. No matter how close and loving your relationship may be, adding another person to the household changes the dynamics for the entire family. The journey will be smoother if you and your loved one go in with eyes open.
Step 1. Before you settle your parent into the guest room, ask yourself these questions.
- How will the move involve my spouse, children and siblings?
- How will my parent’s presence affect our family routine, activities and privacy?
- Are there unresolved issues between me and my parent? My spouse and my parent?
- Does this mean remodeling our house or adding a bedroom or bathroom?
- Do I expect other family members to pitch in?
- Can we afford the extra expense?
- Should part of my parent’s income go toward living expenses?
- Will I need to quit work or alter my schedule?
- Will we take my parent with us on vacation or get respite care?
- Are there issues such as smoking, drinking or pets that we need to work out?
- Does my parent have any tendencies that bother or upset me? Can they be tamed?
- How will I establish boundaries?
- How does my parent feel about moving?
- How do I feel about accepting this role?
Step 2. Your parent should consider these questions.
- Will the move take me away from people or activities I Iove?
- Does my child do things that bother or upset me?
- Do I like being in the company of the family for long periods of time?
- Should I contribute part of my income or savings to living expenses?
- If the home needs remodeling to accommodate me — a new bathroom, for instance — am I able to help pay for it?
- Will other family members help out?
- If I don’t like something my child does, am I comfortable discussing it?
- How do I feel about being dependent?
Step 3. Talk openly about expectations, fears, finances and lingering issues. It may make you uneasy, but this is the prime time to work it out or readjust your thinking. Sometimes it’s as easy as telling each other what bothers you. The other person may have no idea — and no trouble making a change.