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tlwe223's picture Terri Weber, MSW, CSW
Elder Care Specialist
College or Department
Work-Life and Well-Being
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(859) 218-0457
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As adult children, it is natural to want to provide our aging parents with the best care and support possible. Sometimes moving them into our home may be a natural or necessary next step. Multigenerational households are becoming more and more common. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, one in five Americans lives in a multigenerational home.

Deciding to move your parent into your home is a big decision, and several important factors need to be considered. These include the health and care needs of the parent, the family dynamics, financial capabilities, how older-adult-friendly your home is and the availability of time to provide the necessary support.  

Five things to consider

Health and care needs
The first factor to consider is your parent’s physical and mental abilities. If they are independent now, consider that an advantage. But eventually, things can change; it’s the circle of life. You need to anticipate what the future could hold based on family and personal medical history. What will things look like in six months, a year, two years or five years from now? Will you be able to provide the level of care they need? Their needs and health concerns could require home modifications to make it accessible and safe. You may have to hire an in-home care aide while you’re at work to help with their care needs. Who will assist them in managing their medications and medical appointments? And who will provide them social opportunities and outlets? Having a clear understanding of what your parent’s needs are — and knowing that those will change in the future — will help you determine if it is feasible for them to move in with you and what level of support they will require.

Family dynamics
No matter how good your relationship currently is with your parent, adding another person to the household changes the family dynamics. The relationship between you and your parent will change. You and your parent have not shared a roof in years, and the challenges of daily living can increase stress for all family members.

Before the logistics of the move are even discussed, have an open and honest discussion with your parent about your expectations, and establish boundaries and household rules. Your parent will now be living with you and should not be considered company. Everyone needs to do their part, as much as they are able, to keep the household running smoothly.

When people who are not used to living together begin sharing the same space, things can go south very quickly. You want to keep ahead of that with open communication and periodic re-evaluations.

Not every senior wants to live with their adult child. But when the other options are costly and involve moving into a new living environment with unfamiliar aides providing personal care, moving in with their adult child and family can be the more agreeable choice. Living with your family in a familiar environment can feel much safer, especially for those with cognitive decline.

There are many positives to living in a multigenerational household. It provides you with the opportunity to get reacquainted with your parent on a different level; you are no longer in a ‘parent-child’ relationship. And your children will have the chance to spend more time with their grandparents in a more casual manner. Being able to keep an eye on your parent’s health and well-being, making sure they are safe and knowing that their needs are met can lessen your overall stress.

Financial capabilities
The third consideration is financial. According to the AARP’s 2021 Caregiving Out of Pocket Cost Study, annual costs for caregiving tasks and supplies average more than $7,200 per year. It’s important to look at your current budget and think how it might change if your parent moves in.

Know that in the beginning there will be some one-time expenses to modify your home to accommodate your parent’s needs — such as installing grab bars or a handheld shower in the bathroom, installing an outside ramp or the addition of an in-law suite. Beyond that, there will most likely be an increase in the family budget — food, utility bills (such as cable, electricity, water) and gas money if driving your parent to and from their appointments.

Before your parent moves in, there needs to be a discussion on how the finances will be handled. How much can your parent contribute to the overall household budget? Families shouldn’t have to struggle with the additional financial responsibilities that come with caring for their parent. But depending on the situation it may be necessary to make adjustments to the family budget to accommodate your parent’s needs.

Home safety
Is your home older-adult-friendly? Is your home comfortable, safe and matches your parents’ abilities? According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of accidents or unintentional deaths worldwide. Adults 65 years and older are at the greatest risk of fatal falls. There are home modifications that can be done to lessen the chance of injury and death.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an  online checklist, Check for safety, to help you make your home safer.

Below are a few basic recommendations

  • If possible, arrange for your parent to live on the same level as the kitchen, giving them full access and making it easier for them to navigate the home without using the stairs. If your home has stairs, install handrails inside and out, or consider adding a stair lift.
  • In the bathroom, add grab bars, a shower chair and non-slip mats in the shower/bathtub area, and increase toilet seat height for easier access off and on.
  • Secure rugs with anti-slip mats and add bumpers to sharp furniture corners.
  • Keep the floors clear of tripping hazards.
  • Make sure all rooms, hallways and walkways are well lit.
  • Install safety sensors on windows and doors that alert you if your parent leaves home. If dementia is part of the picture, this might be very helpful

Providing the necessary support
Finally, the last consideration is if you and your family are up to take on the caregiver role. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, family caregivers are at an increased risk for burnout symptoms ranging from increased depression and anxiety to increased risk of heart disease. In short, family caregivers are often in worse health than their non-caregiving peers.

Before you consider moving your parent into your home, make sure you have the support systems in place so you aren’t shouldering all the care responsibilities. Ask other family members to commit to helping weekly with specific tasks, such as driving your parent back and forth from doctor appointments, providing a weeknight meal, offering respite care, etc. Find out what outside care options are available in your area such as home care services, adult day centers, overnight respite facilities, etc. It’s important to evaluate what time you have and what outside support there is before taking on this caregiver role.

Personally, I was part of a multigenerational household. After my mom died, my 81-year-old dad moved in with us. He lived with us for 13 years — our girls grew up with him. When he first moved in with us, he was independent and self-reliant. He didn’t need our assistance and was always willing to help. When our girls were young, they loved having Grandpa live with us. But as the years moved on, my dad’s health and mental abilities declined and things became more difficult. The girls were away, my husband was traveling a lot more for work and I was working full time. We needed help. We hired in-home care; after a few tries we found the right match. Over time his condition deteriorated and hospice came in.

Looking back, living together was the absolute right decision for our family. But moving a parent into your home may not be the right decision for everyone. It’s a decision only you and your family can make. Take time to consider all the options. And know that there may come a time when this living situation no longer works; when your parent needs more care and support than you are able to provide. Be open to this possibility and discuss it with your parent in advance. It’s important to talk it through. This will put both you and your parent in a better position to make an informed — rather than emotional — decision.
Stay well, stay healthy, stay connected,