Should Your Elderly Parent Move in with You?
By Cate Coulacos Prato

More Helpful Eldercare Information

Eldercare: How to Talk About It With Your Aging Parent

The ABCs of Aging: A Glossary of Eldercare Terms

Getting Professional Help

Eldercare Facilities: An Overview of the Options

Eldercare Safety Checklist and a downloadable Eldercare Emergency Info Sheet

Should You Have Your Parent Move In With You?

When your elderly parent can no longer live alone, should you offer to let him or her move in with you? Though the arrangement is less common than it once was, it can work, provided you plan ahead and consider the needs of both generations, experts say. If you’re considering this arrangement:

Start thinking it through now, before there’s an emergency. “Never make this decision in a crisis,” says geriatric care consultant Rona Bartelstone. “Your judgment is impaired, you’re scared. Often you think, Mom will only be with us a couple of years – then it turns out to be 15. It’s not good for either party.”

Consider how your lifestyle will affect the elder. “People don’t realize how busy they are,” says geriatric care consultant Deborah Newquist. When the rest of the family is gone all day and the elder doesn’t have transportation, he or she can feel lonely and isolated. In other families, the elder is dragged along to lots of activities he or she doesn’t want to do and doesn’t have the stamina for. Sometimes just the high activity level in the house can make the elder parent uncomfortable.

Respect each other’s roles and responsibilities. That means elders shouldn’t interfere with their adult child’s parenting or grandparenting and adult children shouldn’t take over Grandma’s bank account just because she’s living with them.

Respect each other’s space and privacy. The best solution, though not always practical, is to convert a garage or add on a room for the elder. If a teenager has to give up a bedroom, making space for him or her in the basement or in a converted garage also helps to maintain privacy and lessen generational friction.

“Elders and children need to have their own lives,” says Bartelstone. If the elder has lots of care needs, plan breaks for both the children and elder, such as a short visit at an assisted-care facility or elder day care, she says.

Try to make the live-in relationship feel reciprocal. If your dad wants to fix some things around the house or cook a meal once a week, let him – even if it isn’t exactly the way you’d like. Likewise, you should feel you’re getting some satisfaction from the relationship, be it companionship or even peace of mind, advises gerontologist Raymond Coward. “It’s the relationships that are just one-way that tend to grate over the long haul.”

Consider a trial period. Have the parent stay for several days at a time or longer, with the agreement that this is on a trial basis for the set period of time. Decide beforehand what Plan B will be if things don’t work out.

“There’s the ideal fantasy of how it will work versus the reality,” says Newquist. “Be honest about where the fantasy ends and the reality begins.”

Cate Coulacos Prato writes frequently on family issues.
From United Parenting Publications, June 2004