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For better or worse? Aging parents living with adult children more than ever

by Amanda Lambert | Contributor
June 1, 2020


Aging parents are moving in with adult children and their families more than ever before. As our population ages, families are looking for alternatives to the traditional assisted living model. Living together is one of those alternatives.

Reasons why parents move in with adult children

There are a variety of reasons parents move in with children. Here are a few of the more common ones and some new ones based on the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Because of COVID-19, some families are deciding to move parents in with them due to the restrictions that senior living communities are placing on visits. If a parent is in a nursing home, recent revelations about poor care and infection control are prompting families to consider care at home.
  • If you are a family caregiver, the duties and tasks may have become too difficult to provide at a distance. It seems easier to have a parent at your home so you can manage the situation better.
  • Financial constraints may dictate that it makes more sense for you all to live together and share in costs.

Make a pros and cons list

Before you decide to move your parents in with you, make a list of pros and cons. This will help you plan for potential problems that might come up. Include other family members since they, too, have a vested interest in things going well.

This doesn’t mean that if the risks outweigh the benefits, you will change your mind, but it may reduce the likelihood of surprises.

Plan for an increase in care needs

Unless your parents are in great physical health, you can expect that their condition may get worse. This means more work for you. Prepare for this by putting some things in place before there is a need.

  • Make sure that advance care planning has been completed so you can advocate and make health care decisions if necessary.
  • Discuss, in advance, how to deal with caregiving tasks that may exceed what the family can provide. How will you know when you can’t safely provide care?
  • If the home might need accessibility modifications, are those even possible? Some tri-level homes are very expensive to modify. If you have a tub shower, you may have to change to a walk-in shower.
  • Meet with your financial advisor to go over all of the possible ramifications of this decision. Make sure your long-range financial plan can absorb the costs of care.

What is the nature of your relationship and how might that change?

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  • If you have a poor relationship with either parent, consider what that would be like living together. You may rethink the move in light of the possibility of making the relationship worse. Or, you may decide to go ahead and hope that the relationship will improve – or at least not suffer.
  • Keep in mind the changing child/parent dynamic when you are living together. If the move is primarily due to caregiving responsibilities, this could affect the relationship. Not many parents want to be dependant on their children and a move-in may change that dynamic. Respecting your parent’s autonomy and independence will help in that effort.

Evaluate the home environment

Before the move, take a good look at the home environment in light of these issues:

  • Can the home be modified and made more accessible? What would be the cost of that work? Can the home accommodate a wheelchair ramp? Are there stairs that might pose a problem later?
  • What will be the living arrangement and does it provide enough privacy for everyone? Are there places in the house for people to retreat to during the day?
  • Is there work that needs to be completed on your home before your parent moves in?

Set ground rules: privacy and responsibilities

Setting ground rules helps everyone know what to expect and what their responsibilities are. Some topics for discussion might be:

  • Respect for everyone’s need for privacy
  • Delegation of household chores
  • A collaborative decision-making process
  • How to handle conflicts

Discuss finances

Discussing finances in advance will reduce the chance of misunderstandings later. Put everything in writing. Consider the following specifics:

  • Division of mortgage costs if there is a mortgage. Will your family member be expected to pay rent, and if so, how much?
  • Cost of repairs and home maintenance. How will those be shared?
  • Utility costs and how those will be divided.

Plan for consistent communication

Without a plan for consistent communication, tensions can increase and resentment can build. One of the best ways to make sure that everyone is committed to regular communication is to hold weekly meetings.

You can even have a flexible agenda that could include these topics for discussion:

  • Recommended modifications to the financial plan
  • Issues of privacy
  • Caregiving concerns
  • Are household responsibilities being done?
  • Any other issues that people have

Agree to seek outside help if needed

This is important because, by the time your parent needs more help, you will want to put it in place as soon as possible. If there is disagreement about the need or the cost, it can cause conflict and stress.

  • Talk about when to put outside help in place. Try and identify specific tasks that you can’t safely provide. This might include transfers, showering, toileting or medical care. At some point, regardless of what caregiving your parent requires, you might have had enough.
  • Consider the type of outside help your parent is willing to accept. Do they prefer in-home caregivers or would they be open to assisted living? Assess the cost of this type of care upfront so there are no surprises. If necessary, determine who will pay for care and if there are enough resources available to cover the cost.
  • Identify local resources or online caregiver support groups to provide support and education. If possible, connect your parents to resources like senior centers or adult day care. Parents can become very dependant on the family for connection and socialization, but they need their peers, too.

Take breaks

This seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it can be much harder to take breaks when you have a parent living with you. After all, there is always something that needs to be done.

  • If you can, schedule breaks so that you don’t feel guilty. Let everyone know that on certain days you will be out of the house for a designated time period. What you do with that time is up to you. Make it pleasurable!
  • Focus on self-care such as exercise, well-balanced meals and stress management. You don’t want your health to suffer while taking care of your parents.
  • Ask your children and spouse how they are doing and what they might need. It is easy to get wrapped up in the business of life and forget to check on their emotional and physical health.

Escape plan

  • At some point you, your parents, your spouse or your children may have had enough. This could be for any number of reasons, but it is important to value and respect anyone’s need to end the arrangement.
  • Discuss this possibility in advance. If you decide your parent needs to move out, have a plan in place for the possibility of assisted living or some other senior living option.

Your parents can move in safely and happily

Parents moving in with you will have some surprises in store for all of you, but it can be a positive arrangement for everyone. The keys to success are open communication, pre-planning, honesty and a caring and respectful attitude.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company. Our financial planners and retirement income certified professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and help you to achieve 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.

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