Preparing for a Big Change: Advice on Moving Your Parent into Your Household

With such a large percentage of the population aging, we thought it would be helpful to post a series of articles around the subject of aging parents. Having been through it myself, I know how stressful yet rewarding it can be.
This first article is about moving your parent into your home. Here are some points to consider before making this important decision.

If you’re preparing to move your mother or father (or both) into your home, you may be wondering if it’s a good idea, or even how to make it work. It’s natural to want to help your parent if he or she is sick or in financial straits but it is important to understand that such a major transition can have it ups and downs. Introducing a parent into your home could potentially disrupt the lives of your family. This article outlines a few ways to make sure this transition goes smoothly for all, and important points to consider beforehand.

If you are considering moving a parent in with you, it may be because you don’t want your parent in a nursing home, because you want your children to bond with your grandparent, or because this is the most financially viable option. Whether out of love, compassion, guilt, or a sense of responsibility, making that move will have a profound impact on your life.

You are not alone. One out of every four elder care providers lives with the disabled or elderly loved one he or she cares for. This arrangement can be positive—if your parent is healthy, he or she may assist around the home, babysit, cultivate an intimate relationship with children that would otherwise be impossible, or contribute financially to the family. This situation may have its drawbacks – although having a parent or loved one live at home may be more financially prudent (a nursing home costs $60,000 per year on average), you could pay the price in terms of fatigue, stress, time, and a strain on family relations.

Critical questions to ask yourself when deciding whether a loved one should move in:

Does your loved one require extra care?
Have you assessed your parent’s mental and physical condition? Does he or she have any chronic illnesses? If your loved one is still relatively independent, this may be a good time to move him or her in. He or she can easily grow accustomed to new surroundings and require very little care from family members and yourself. Your kids will get to know your loved one while he or she is still healthy.

However, most individuals don’t consider moving a parent in until they experience some sort of chronic health setback or medical crisis. You’ll need to have a good understanding of the illness – and not just their illness here and now. It’s critical to gain an understanding of how their illness will progress—this means determining what care your loved one will need both now and in the future, including their health for the next six months, the next year, next five years down the line and so on. You’ll need an understanding of that information.

Even if your parent is healthy, just slowing down and there is no specific illness (cancer, Alzheimer’s), you’ll still need to anticipate your loved one’s future condition and personal & family history. Bringing you parent into your home for a short period if time is also a solution – your loved one may be able to live with you well until his or her condition deteriorates and assisted living or a nursing home is the next step.

How much care, supervision, and assistance can you provide?
Providing care for an elderly loved one is an excellent way to give back some of the nurturing, love, and care they shared with you over the years. When you move your parent into your home, you provide a model for your own children, demonstrating what care and commitment are, teaching them how to nurture.

Important points to keep in mind:
Be realistic about what you can and cannot do for your loved one, and keep in mind the level of assistance required will increase over time.
Are you comfortable providing different kinds of care for your loved one? They may need help with dressing, bathing, or going to the bathroom. If you are not, you may need to find an in-home aide.

Consider your schedule.
If you have young children and a full-time job, a parent requiring a lot of assistance may be a big impact on your routine. If your loved one needs assistance going to the bathroom several times every night, you could start to suffer from sleep deprivation. If you choose to move your loved one into your home, reacting to a recent health crisis, or elect to move them in as a preventative measure because they are losing the ability to care for themselves, you need to carefully consider whether you have the energy and time to help.

Think About Your Relationships

Before moving your parent into your home, it’s a good idea to think about your relationship with that parent. If you enjoy each other’s company and can successfully resolve differences, that’s a real plus. If you have never really gotten along with your parent, don’t expect the relationship to magically change – it’s a very real possibility that you could fall back into the same habits. It might be possible to come to an understanding, allowing you to live civilly with each other. Keep in mind that additional stress from fighting with your parent can wear on your relationships with your husband and children. They may have strong feelings toward having a new member of the household. You can open up the lines of communication, letting them know that their concerns are important, too, and they should feel free to express them.

Think About Your Finances
Many people do not realize that moving a parent into their home can be a long-term financial commitment, so they don’t plan accordingly. Having a parent live with you can save you the cost of having to pay for a nursing home. It may also be more convenient as far as saving you the drive to visit him or her. However, you might have to build an addition to your house in order make living accommodations. You’ll also have an extra person to feed, or two if both of your parents move in. Depending on you and your family’s schedule and your parent’s health, you might need to hire in-home care. So, take some time to look over your finances. This can all sound very overwhelming, but if you plan well, you might find that you can make it work.

Establish Clear Boundaries
Such a huge adjustment will affect everyone’s day-to-day life. Just like you and your family, your parent will need time to acclimate to the daily life of your household. Talk to your mother or father about establishing some boundaries. For instance, your husband and children are just as much entitled to privacy, as is your parent. In addition, you, your family and your parent need to respect each individual’s routine. It’s not unreasonable to ask your parent to make some changes to his or her lifestyle in order to accommodate your family, but ask your family to show your parent the same patience and flexibility.

Having your parent come live with you and your family can be a great experience. However, as with all major decisions in your life, you should take some time to consider the impact it will have on everyone. Start by talking with your parent, husband, and children and see where things go from there.