11 Tips for Moving In With Aging Parents

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

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Moving in with aging parents is a big decision for lots of reasons. Any move can be stressful, but moving in with parents has its own unique challenges and considerations. If you are thinking about taking the plunge, take a deep breath, and if you haven’t already, go through your pros and cons before making the move final.

Without a doubt, you’re not the only one who will have to make some serious adjustments, as your parents may also have to make some changes as a result of this decision. If you are still waffling, here are some tips to help you have the confidence to make a wise decision.

1. Be Clear About Why You are Moving in

People move in with their aging parents for a variety of reasons. Granted, those reasons may change over time, but being clear in your intentions will help the transition go more smoothly. Some of the most common reasons people move in with aging parents are the following:

  • Caregiving. Most people say they want to remain in their own homes as they age. As their caregiving needs increase, it can be easier for adult children to move in to provide that care.
  • Finances. Financial stress can lead to the combining of households to share in costs. Another consideration-the cost of senior care or in-home care for an aging parent is expensive. Those costs can be managed better with the family providing that care.
  • Loneliness and social isolation. The loss of independence, friends, and function can take a toll. Being with family can provide a renewed sense of community and closeness. Being closer to grandchildren can lift an aging parent’s spirits.
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2. Evaluate the Care Your Parent Needs

You may think you have a very good idea of how your parent is functioning. To avoid surprises when moving in, do what you can to fairly evaluate exactly what your parent needs. It is not unusual for an aging parent to overstate how well things are going. To the extent that you can, take a look at these areas of functioning:

  • Are your parents able to manage their own finances?
  • Do one or both need help with bathing, dressing, cooking, eating, or house maintenance?
  • Will you need to help one or both parents to the bathroom each night?
  • Does either parent wander?
  • What about driving? Will you need to provide transportation to doctor’s visits, shopping trips and prescription pick up?
  • Are your aging parents refusing help? This can create conflict and disagreement about how to handle caregiving duties.
  • Bottom line: would an assisted living arrangement be a better fit for your parents than you moving in?

3. Make a Pros and Cons List

A good way to assess the viability of moving in with aging parents is to make a pros and cons list. That way you can size up the benefits and risks of a move. This exercise helps to identify some potential problems you may not have thought of.

Even if the risks outweigh the benefits, you will have everything spelled out in front of you to help you choose what you think is best. With all decisions, you can change your mind later on, but conducting this exercise may reduce the likelihood of unexpected surprises.

4. 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. Plan for this by putting some things in place before there is a need.

  • Make sure that advance planning has been completed so you can advocate and make healthcare decisions if necessary.
  • Discuss, in advance, how to deal with caregiving tasks that may exceed what the family can provide.
  • If the home might need accessibility modifications, are those even possible? Some tri-level homes are very expensive to modify.

5. What is the Nature of Your Relationship and How Might That Change?

If you have a poor relationship with either parent, consider what that will 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.

Also, 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.

6. Evaluate the Home Environment

Before you move, take a good look at the home environment with these issues in mind.

  • Can the home be modified and made more accessible? What would be the cost of that work? Can the home accommodate a wheelchair ramp?
  • 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?
  • Does the home need a lot of maintenance? Consider hiring a home inspector prior to moving in so you know what safety problems should be addressed. 
  • Is the home cluttered? If so, do you need help cleaning out your parent’s home before move-in?

7. Set Ground Rules: Privacy and Responsibilities

Setting ground rules helps everyone know what to expect and what their individual responsibilities are. By keeping an open mind but also stating boundaries, you can work with your parents to make sure everyone feels like their wishes are being honored.

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.

8. Discuss Finances

Discussing finances in advance will reduce the chance of misunderstandings later, and it is recommended to put everything in writing. What will that look like? By coming in with a plan to figure out the division of rent, maintenance, groceries, bills, all parties may feel more at ease.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Division of mortgage costs if there is a mortgage. Will you 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?
  • If your parent needs help with bill paying, who will be responsible for that task, and do you need a financial power of attorney?

9. 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 have a flexible agenda that could include topics like privacy, caregiving, household responsibilities, and any changes to the financial plan. Sticking to a weekly meeting can give people time to prepare any thoughts they may have about living together, as well as any grievances they may have. 

10. Agree to Seek Outside Help if Needed

Talking about outside help is very important, especially as things change. 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, despite 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 are 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 are there 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 daycare. Parents can become very dependent on the family for connection and socialization, but they need their peers too.

11. Take Breaks

This seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it can be much harder to take breaks when you are living in your parent’s home. 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 period of time. 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.

12. Escape Plan

At some point you, your parents, your spouse, or your children may feel like their time in the house is done. 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 to leave your parent’s home, have a plan in place for replacement care or the possibility of assisted living. If your parent wants to end the arrangement, you may need time to find alternative housing and need time to do that. 

Moving in With Aging Parents Can Be Successful

Moving in with aging parents 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. Agreeing to hold these standards in place can avoid the risk of deteriorating communications later on between you and your parents.

It can feel like a big thankless job, but talking to your parents about having their child at home again may remind you both about the connections that endure over time.

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