We’ve all heard of the growing stereotype of Millennials moving back in with their parents after college. But many times, the situation is actually reversed — an aging parent is the one who moves back in with their grown children. This can be a wonderful opportunity for your family to forge new bonds with your aging parent, but taking on the responsibility to care for an older adult is an important decision not to be made lightly. How do you know if it’s a good idea? Here are some of the considerations you should make when deciding if your parent moving in will benefit both of you in the long run or just spell trouble.
Considerations When Living with an Aging Parent
Why They Want to Move Back In
There are many reasons that an aging parent might want or need to move back in with their children. The most common reason is that their physical condition has degraded to the point that they can no longer take care of themselves and live independently. Beyond physical health, an older adult may be craving additional companionship and emotional support, especially if they lost their spouse or lifelong friends have moved away. Additionally, some older adults run into financial trouble and can no longer afford the upkeep on a house.[1. “Senior citizens struggle with mounting debt,” May 28, 2013, https://money.cnn.com/2013/05/28/news/economy/senior-citizens-debt/] Some of these needs can be met with the assistance of a professional home health aide while others require a more involved solution.
Can You Meet Their Needs?
Once you’ve determined why your aging parent wants to move back in and what their needs are, it’s up to you to decide if you can meet those needs. If they require services of a hands-on nature — like feeding, bathing, or toileting — you need to ask yourself if this is something you or another family member is comfortable with providing. Another important consideration to make is about time management. Do you have enough time during the day to complete these tasks? Equally important is that you can be there at the right time of day when their needs arise. Transportation is also a common issue that those with physical limitations face. Will you be able to take your aging parent to and from appointments, many of which may be in the middle of the day? Beyond medical appointments, your parent may need transportation to run errands or just to get out of the house for some fun.
The Impact on Other Family Members
It’s easy to get caught up in how a parent’s move back will affect you and your mom or dad. But what about the impact on other family members? If your children live with you, think about how the move will affect their schedule, lifestyle, or work and school activities. Ideally, having their grandparent in the house will provide your children with a unique opportunity to share lifestyles and forge a closer bond. But you have to ask yourself: Will all of you get on each other’s nerves if you spend too much time together?[2. “When Mom Moves In: Creating Boundaries and Expectations,” https://www.care.com/a/when-mom-moves-in-creating-boundaries-and-expectations-1105121347] While it’s possible your family is the kind that gets along famously, bear in mind that everyone needs their own space and alone time. Which brings us to the next consideration . . .
Is Your House Ideal for an Aging Parent?
Think about your house in terms of usable space. Do you have a furnished bedroom for every person who needs one, including your aging parent? Are there enough bathrooms so everyone is able to do what they need to when they need to do it (including the morning “rush hour”)? Making sure your family and your parent have enough space is often overlooked until after they’ve moved in, but this consideration is an important one to make. Additionally, mobility is often an issue with older adults, so you should have a bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor of your house, where your mom or dad won’t have to deal with steps. Even if your parent can navigate steps with ease today, bear in mind that mobility tends to decrease as we age — your parent may not always be so light on their feet. In addition, you should be sure that your home’s rooms and hallways are wide enough so that your parent can easily maneuver their walker or wheelchair if needed.
Talk to Your Aging Parent About Moving Back In
Before an aging parent moves in with you, it’s important to see what the potential conflicts might be and if they’re worth navigating for everyone involved, including you, your family, and your mom or dad. By talking through these important issues together, you’ll be able to make a decision you both can live with – no matter where your parent lives!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.