Every year, thousands of families make the difficult decision to move an elderly parent into their home. There is no road map available to guide you through this process. Often it seems to be the only viable option available after an illness, injury, or decline has made it unsafe or impossible for the parent to live alone any longer. Even with all the right intentions, it may not be the right choice. Here are some guidelines gleaned from extensive experience to aid in this difficult choice.
Do you and your own family have a long-term friendly relation with this parent?
Take a serious look at the relationship of this parent with you, your children, and your spouse over the past few decades. Too many times, when a parent is suffering, a halo suddenly appears over their head. Harsh words and callous remarks will not go away just because this person moves into your home. If you have had problems living seperately, they will be worse when you are under the same roof full time. Some of these problems can date back to your childhood or to your dating days with your spouse.
How will the financial arrangements work?
Having another person living in your home will add some expenses. People eat food, use the phone, need water, use gas and electric, and may require transportation. This does not consider medical expenses, clothing, and other potential needs. If your parent has a reasonable income, do not be afraid to accept some form of rent, help with the utilities, and payments toward food. It is also to be expected that the parent will provide for their own personal needs like clothing, medicine, and doctor’s bills. You should be reimbursed for auto expenses if you become the chauffeur.
Will the parent require around the clock company or care?
It is not reasonable to expect to be able to be available at all hours of the day and night without help. If you have siblings, make sure that arrangements are made for their help. You are shouldering the load. They should help. You may need to find a way to get help with the parent to give you a break when siblings are unavailable or unwilling to give assistance. If you do not get regular time away from the parent or them away from you, resentment will develop. Even if you suppress it, it will still be there and affect you and your family. It is unfair to expect your spouse and children to take up all of the slack when you are unavailable. Your parent may need to be able to hire a sitter at times.
Do you really have room in your house for your parent?
An extra bedroom would be the minimum requirement for a parent to move in to your home. The parent should not uproot your children or take over another vital room in your house. If you have to give up too much, the arrangement will not hold up over time. Is your parent able and willing to pay to have an apartment added to your house? This can be a good idea for families where the parent still has a measure of independence but just needs someone nearby for emergencies. It is best if the parent can have at least 2 rooms because the person will need their own space. If it is too small, it will begin to feel like living in a closet or cave.
Is there a pet involved?
If your parent has a pet, is it one that you can stand to have nearby? Yappy dogs can get on your nerves in a hurry. Cats or dogs that have accidents in the house or claw up or chew up furniture can be a problem. Will this pet require a fenced yard or special spot for a litter box? Who will do most of the care for the pet? If it is you, this.. can become a nightmare if you do not like the pet.
How long will this living arrangement last?
Is this until death do us part? You may want to set some guidelines about what circumstances will bring this effort to a close. A sick parent may get well. An injury may fully heal and restore the parent’s ability to do their own care in their own house or apartment. If you have not set boundaries, a parent that does not like living alone will not suggest moving out. If you do it, it can look like you are trying to expel your parent from your house. Set this up first before the move in happens.
Get a power of attorney.
If your parent is living with you, you should have their power of attorney. This can be set up with special guidelines like poor health to become in effect. However, without this document, you could do all of the work and be unable to make choices for your parent when they become unable to do so. Worse yet, another person who has stayed out of the picture when help was needed may swoop in with a power of attorney and make uniformed decisions for the parent. This could damage their health or ruin their finances before you can stop it. A parent who does not trust you with the power of attorney probably should not be living in your home. Let them live with the person that they trust.
Visitor and house guest rules need to be established.
Grandma and Grandpa like to have their family come to visit. They may even want grandkids to spend the night or have an extended stay. This is still your house. You get to set the rules. If this is a problem for you, your parent needs to know who is welcome and who is not. If this is not something they can live with, your house is not the place for them to live.
Use common sense in using these guidelines.
Do not ignore any of these questions or suggestions. However, many of them have painted the more negative side to this arrangement. It can and does go wrong quite easily. Lots of people make this work every day and for years. If you settle some of the big issues early, it increases the chances of a successful merger of the two homes.