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As of 2014, about 2.6 million households in the US consist of an adult living with a dependent parent, according to the Census Bureau. As the Baby Boomers continue to age, such arrangements will become increasingly common.
Ideally, you and your parents should discuss the possibility of their moving in before a crisis like a sudden illness forces the issue. Dr. John Graham, a co-author of “All in the Family: A Practical Guide to Successful Multi-generational Living,” recommends broaching the topic when the parents are as young as 70.
Should my parents move in with me and my family?
What questions should I be asking?
At the risk of sounding crass or unfeeling, can you afford to take them in? A caregiver will often spend $5,000 a year on such necessities as food and clothing for their parent. If the parent has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, that cost can skyrocket to $20,000 a year.
Similarly, how will you accommodate them? Will you have to add another bedroom? Will you have to remodel a bathroom to make it safe for someone in a wheelchair? Will you need disability ramps so they can get in and out of the house? You may want to hire a geriatric care manager to help you assess your home and determine if it is safe and suitable for a senior.
Talk to your parents’ primary care physician about what they are likely to need and what you will probably need to do to help them. Even if your parents are in perfect health now, that will probably not always be the case.
You may also want to stay with your parents for a couple of weeks to see how feasible having them live with you is. If you find yourself always arguing with them or feeling overwhelmed by the care they need, you may want to explore other options.
How can I make the move easy on my parents?
Look for help in the area before they and you need it. Trying to be the main or sole caregiver will only cause you to burn out and resent your parents. Look into adult daycare centers, community services, and/or paid caregivers. Even if your parents are in good health now, they will likely need such services as they age and become frailer.
Help your parents set up a schedule covering things to do in preparation for the move. Finding resources online can also be a big help. This moving checklist for seniors by Suddath can help alleviate stress during the planning process by making sure you and your parents are organized and prepared for the move.
One thing they will have to do that they will probably find painful is downsizing. They will probably have to part with some of their possessions in order to fit the remainder into their new living quarters. You may have to help them decide what things they are willing to part with and which things they must keep.
Older people are often not comfortable or adept with computers. Your parents may, therefore, need help with such matters as contacting the Post Office about their change of address. Make certain that somebody contacts the electric company and the cable company to cancel their services. Since your parents are moving in with you, they will presumably use the same utilities you do.
After they move in, what boundaries/rules should I set so we all get along?
A common bone of contention is the kitchen, for different people have different tastes in food. Similarly, parents and adult children often argue over housekeeping, particularly if the house has become home to both neatniks and slobs. In this case, the family may want to agree to certain rules that apply to everybody, like no food in the bedrooms.
Graham recommends regular meetings for family members, especially during the first year or so. The meetings will give people to discuss grievances, as well as what is working with the arrangement. With work and a little luck, the meetings may become less necessary as people get used to each other.