Older parents moving in with their adult children has seen an uptick over the last couple of years. Generations of families living together are common in other cultures, but not so much in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred families to take their loved ones out of risky nursing homes or combine households to deal with isolation and loneliness. The Wall Street Journal reports that “multigenerational living increased sharply in 2021, with 26% of Americans living in a household with at least three generations.”
All of this sounds cozy and wonderful, and indeed, there are significant advantages to living in the same household. Perhaps you are already a caregiver, and having your parents in your household is more convenient. You may be thinking about this step or have already taken the plunge. Regardless of where you are in the process, we have some considerations when making this decision and beyond. You want to do everything you can to make the move a successful one, accepting that there will be bumps in the road along the way.
There are no iron-clad right or wrong reasons for a move, but being clear from all sides about why you are making such a significant decision will ensure success. Some questions to ask yourself and your parents:
Crisis-driven decisions aren’t usually good ones. Examine everyone’s reasons for considering such a move. Are your parents unhappy where they are living? Has caregiving for you become too expensive or time-consuming? Are you or your parents having financial problems that you hope will be solved by moving together? Is there pressure from your parents to move in with you even though you have doubts about the idea?
Financial considerations are not necessarily a negative reason for moving in together. But assessing yours and your parents' estate with an eye toward long-term care needs may clarify and identify other options. Do your parents own their home and plan on selling it before they move in with you? Determine how much equity they have in their home, and if it isn’t much, consider the impact that will have on their ability to contribute to the household. And what if they need a higher level of care later? Will there be enough in their estate to account for those increased needs?
Consider increasing care in your parents' current home or finding ways to ease isolation. Sometimes the solution to a problem is not as drastic as moving in with you. Is assisted living a viable option? You may want to consider alternatives to a move before making a final decision that this is the best choice.
If you have conflict with your parents, don’t expect that moving in together will necessarily resolve anything. It might even make it worse. Evaluate your relationship with your parents in light of a potential move.
Chances are you aren’t the only one that a move affects. You probably have a family, a spouse or partner and perhaps even an adult child living with you. A pros and cons list will clarify and crystalize potential problems and benefits. Include your family in making this list so that they can voice their concerns. You might identify risks, but be willing to live with those. A pros and cons list will decrease the likelihood of unexpected surprises for everyone.
An older adult’s medical situation rarely remains stable. Take a close look at your parents’ care needs and anticipate an increase in those needs.
Your parents could be leaving or have left a full social life that includes neighbors, church and other activities. How will you help them meet those needs? Do your parents drive, and if not, how can you prevent isolation and loneliness? Your immediate family may not be enough to satisfy their desire for connection with their peers. Talk with your parents about putting a plan in place to keep them stimulated and engaged.
Even if your parents don’t need accessibility now, they might in the future. There are some basic features and additions you can put in place now and then anticipate possible changes for later. If you need help, turn to a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) or occupational therapist to evaluate your home. Discuss the financing of any major renovations and who will pay for those. Some accessibility additions to consider:
Many older homes have several levels necessary to access each living space.
You may have a separate area for your parents, such as a basement apartment or an attached living quarters. Stairs leading to the home's central area, the laundry or entry to the front of the home can be a barrier and increase fall risk. If one of your parents falls or has an accident that impairs mobility, stairs could present a challenge. Stair glides and railings are some ideas on how to make stairs safer.
As step-in shower is fine for someone with good balance and mobility. But stepping into a shower tub increases the likelihood of a fall. If you have a walk-in shower, great. If you don’t, you may need to add one. Add grab bars in appropriate places installed by a licensed contractor. Consider a toilet riser and handles for ease of getting off the toilet if your parents need assistance.
An emergency response system (ERS) detects falls and will automatically call first responders in the event of an accident. Ensure that there are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home. A basic emergency kit is also recommended.
Ground rules help everyone know what to expect and what their responsibilities are. Conflict often arises from a lack of communication and unspoken expectations. Assume that some of these rules will need tweaking and stay flexible, but establish some guidelines to start with.
Finances can be a tricky subject for families to discuss. But better to get financial responsibilities established early. Running a household involves rent, mortgage, household maintenance, groceries and lawn care. Some questions to consider and decide on:
Having prescheduled meetings to discuss problems will help prevent a buildup of resentments. Possible topics of discussion are privacy, finances, caregiving and household responsibilities. Everyone should have the chance to speak and bring up any issues they deem necessary.
Several factors could impact the long-term viability of your parents living with you. One or both could begin to require more care. Perhaps privacy issues are too challenging to work out. Maybe you or your spouse get a job transfer and have to move. Here are some suggestions on anticipating and handling the possibility that your parents may need to move out.
There could come a time when your parents think everything is working out fine, but you need to tell them the situation isn’t working out for you and your family. Continuing stress and strain on your family relationships take priority, too. Should this occur, we have some suggestions on managing this challenging conversation with your parents.
Be honest about why you need your parents to consider another living option, but do so without blame. Living together can get complicated, and you don't want your parents to feel hurt. Use specifics to explain why the living situation is not working for you. Your parents may have little idea of the stress and strain of living together. Job changes, family dynamics and health crises can all impact the viability of living together.
A calm and respectful demeanor will ensure a more agreeable conversation. After all, these are your parents, and maintaining the integrity of your relationship with them should take priority. If things get heated in the discussion, agree to come back another day to discuss. Listen to your parents' fears with an open and supportive attitude.
Prepare possible solutions in advance of any discussion about another move. Without a feasible alternative plan, emotions and anxieties can run high. Discuss other living solutions and invite your parents to participate in deciding on the best situation for them. Assure them that you are flexible and will support and facilitate any move, but it is probably a good idea to have a soft deadline. Take the time necessary to collaborate on the steps needed for an organized transition to another living situation.
If you plan well and have open communication with your parents, a move together can be successful. Remember that moving is considered one of life’s most stressful events. Caring for your parents with compassion and dedication is an honor but requires a flexible attitude and mutual respect for everyone’s needs.
Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company dedicated to the art of personal financial planning. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.