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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.
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.
- When your parent states a concern, repeat it so you’ll both know you understand.
- Recognize that it’s hard to give up independence.
- Assure your parent that you won’t hover or tell him or her what to do. Stick to it.
- Understand that both of you have evolved and may not share the same opinions, standards, politics, values or belief systems. Don’t judge the other, at least out loud.
- Work out a way to give and get privacy.
- Agree to steer clear of criticism.
- Abide by house rules.
Step 4. Make a list of the positive aspects — like “This adventure will teach the kids to be more empathetic” or “Dad can babysit when we have date nights.” Reread when you hit a rough patch.
Step 5. Have a family meeting.
- Let your kids know that they are not the cause of their grandparent’s possible negative reactions, such as anger, weeping or fear.
- Children may need to be told that their grandparent’s condition is not contagious.
- Explain that while the whole family needs to pitch in, the kids are not responsible for caregiving or fixing their grandparent.
- Irregular behavior by a grandparent may scare or embarrass your children. Talk about ways they might handle different situations.
- Model compassion. Discuss ways the kids can help their grandparent.
- Sometimes dementia has a funny side. Let them (and yourself) enjoy the lighter moments.
Step 6. Meet with your siblings, too.
- The move acknowledges that your parent requires help and will likely need more. This can be an emotional realization for all of you. Talk it through. Let everyone share how this is affecting them.
- If you expect the conversation to be tense, consider investing in a few family sessions with an elder mediator or a family therapist who specializes in geriatric issues.
- Consider and plan for the practical aspects of moving in and making space.
- Ask for help. Gifts of time are important in helping you manage other responsibilities in your life. Be clear about your anticipated needs — such as back-up and respite care, help with chores, meals delivered, grocery and prescription pickup, and money to offset increased living expenses or to hire a health aide.
Is Moving My Parent Into My Home the Best Way to Curb Each of Our Expenses?
There are many excellent reasons for moving your parent or a loved one into your home. Finances might not be one of them. Experts say that the expenses are often greater than most people anticipate.
Step 1. Figure out how much you may need to spend to make your home safe and relative-ready.
- Will my house accommodate my relative’s needs now; in six months; a year?
- What is the relative’s physical and mental condition, and what chronic illness does he or she have?
- Do you have room to offer the privacy your relative is accustomed to, and to maintain privacy for you, your spouse and family?
- Will you need caregiving help?
Things to consider:
- Size matters. If you need to add a bathroom, bedroom or in-law suite, factor in the cost.
- Wheelchair ready. Adding ramps and retrofitting doorways and bathrooms can be expensive. (If your parent is a participant in a Medicaid Community and Home Based Services program, it may be possible to use the provided monthly budget to modify living space.)
- Safety spending. Even if no renovations are necessary, plan on upgrading the bathrooms with grab bars — some are designed to look like towel bars, tissue holders and shower shelves — and, if needed, handicapped-accessible toilets or walk-in tubs. Halls may be made safer by installing a horizontal railing.
Having a parent move into your home will require some physical rearranging. Some family members may be displaced or inconvenienced by the new setup, so communication with everyone is vital. If you can afford it, consider an addition with a prefab unit attachment or explore converting a garage or side porch into an in-law suite. Some families have even built a separate home on their property for maximum privacy and independence.
Your parent may struggle getting acclimated to a new living arrangement and neighborhood. You can be of assistance by helping to locate the local pharmacy, bank, faith community, recreation center and other services. If your parent is interested in independent daytime activities, visit a nearby senior center for information on classes and programs. If your parent requires more intensive care, assess adult day care centers that provide rehab, meals, counseling and therapeutic activities. If you are providing full-time care in your home, look into respite or companion services to give you a break and help your parent expand his or her social circle.