Many older people enjoy life independently for many years without incident –and then, one day, something happens. Your parent slips and falls. They become ill and can’t care for themselves. The normal tasks of daily living become too much to handle. Occasional forgetfulness turns into a noticeable cognitive decline. You may wonder if it’s safe for Mom or Dad to continue living on their own.
Is moving in with your parent – or having them move in with you – the right move? There can be advantages when a parent moves in. It will give the family a chance to enjoy each other’s company. If Mom or Dad is active and has the energy, they can help around the house, babysit the kids and maybe even contribute financially. Moving elderly parents in typically costs less than relocating them to a senior living community.
On the other hand, there is a different set of costs to look at. You might have less privacy, more inconvenience and a disruption to the daily rhythm of your household.
Ask yourself these questions before committing to moving your parent out of their home and into yours.
Checklist: Preparing for Your Parent to Move In
1. How much personal care will be required?
Take time to think about the types of care – and the level of expertise – that your parent requires. To do this, consider how your mom or dad is doing physically, mentally and emotionally. Are they able to manage the basic activities of daily living? This includes things a healthy adult takes for granted, such as bathing or showering, getting dressed and using the toilet. What will happen when your parent’s health changes in the future? Make plans for it now. If being your parent’s primary caregiver makes you anxious, but you still feel you “must,” that could be a sign that guilt is driving the conversation in your head. Think about how much you’re able and willing to take on.
2. Is my home set up properly for an elderly resident?
Imagine you are your parent walking up to your house. Are there stairs to navigate by the front door? If it’s a multistory residence, can Mom or Dad stay in a bedroom with a bathroom on the first floor? If they use a walker or wheelchair, is the bathroom door wide enough for access? Will your home need to be retrofitted with things like grab bars in the bathroom? Can you eliminate any tripping hazards or other safety issues? In other words, can you realistically make your house “elderly friendly?”
3. What is my relationship with my parent like?
There’s a difference between loving your parent dearly and being able to live with them successfully. Do a reality check on how well the two of you get along. If you like to be around each other and know how to work through problems, then you might make a great match. However, if you’ve always butted heads, living with each other will most likely lead to the same sort of conflicts – or worse.
One more consideration: The physical and emotional effects of aging can create changes in your parent’s mood or behavior. Conditions like dementia tend to intensify over time. So, even if you are getting along now, what will happen should a decline in cognitive abilities lead to a change in personality? This is not pleasant to think about – but it’s important to consider what life might look like in the coming months or years
4. How much time do I have to look after my parent?
If you work full time but have other family members in the home, can you tag team care, so your parent has someone on call? Do you have some flexibility with your job to adjust your schedule as needed? Do you have any childcare duties that might conflict with looking after an elderly parent?
5. Is my family ready for this?
Unless you live alone – which we will cover next – you will need to make sure your significant other and/or children are on board with your parent moving in. Depending on how healthy your parent is, and what their personality is like, having them live with you might be a blessing – or something less than that. Think about the needs of everyone in your household. Who might get less of your time and attention now that Mom or Dad is living under your roof? Will the kids need to step up and do more chores? Do you and your spouse enjoy privacy? Schedule a family discussion and make sure everyone is prepared.
6. I live alone – what do I need to be mindful of?
If your parent is relatively healthy and can look after themselves for extended periods, having them at home might work well. On the other hand, if they have a chronic illness, are coping with dementia or are stressed by the chores of day-to-day life, this arrangement can only work if you have an extended, dedicated caregiving team. That might include friends or relatives who live nearby and have the time. Maybe there’s a retired neighbor on your block who can check in on your parent regularly. There may also be options in your area for professional in-home care. Think this all through and make an honest assessment of whether this will work before committing to the move.
7. Am I prepared to be a successful caregiver?
If you are retired or are a homemaker, you might have the time to be your parent’s caregiver. However, having the time doesn’t mean you have the energy, stamina and determination to be a successful caregiver – especially if it’s a full-time job. To succeed, you will need to make sure your parent consumes a healthy, nutritious diet, guide them toward mentally stimulating activities like book clubs, hobbies and other creative endeavors, and schedule time for regular visits with family and friends.
The phrase, “it takes a village” applies to the role of caregiving. Sooner or later, those who attempt to go solo usually wind up with a chronic case of caregiver burnout.
8. How much will it cost – and who will pay for it?
When your parent moves in with you rather than relocating to a senior living community, it could save some money. There will still be new expenses, however. At the low-end, that includes things like food and utilities. If your parent is dealing with chronic health problems, the costs may begin to soar. It’s important to figure out what the expenses might be, and how they will be paid.
Some families charge their parent room and board. If there are additional care costs – such as retrofitting your house or hiring in-home caregivers – who will pay for them? It’s critical to make these decisions before the move happens.
9. What if I live in another state?
You may be wondering if Mom or Dad should leave their community to come live with you. Or you’re thinking, “Should I move closer to my aging parent?” If your parent is moving in with you from another city or state, they will likely lose their social network and may no longer see their friends regularly. That means it’s very important to help your parent stay connected or form new friendships to reduce the chances of becoming lonely and isolated.
If you have a small family or if everyone is busy, look into the availability of a senior center or adult daycare in your neighborhood. You will need to find a replacement for your parent’s previous social life.
10. Will I need to find new healthcare providers?
If your parent is relocating from out of the area, they will require a new primary care doctor and other healthcare professionals. Helping your parent stay as healthy as possible and providing them with the resources to manage ongoing health conditions are key to a successful move into your house.
11. Can I live with my parent and still have a life?
If you work full time or have a busy, active life, don’t underestimate the time involved to look after an elderly adult in your home. If your parent is relatively healthy and active, they might do fine on their own most of the time. This includes setting medical appointments, making transportation arrangements, ordering prescriptions and other supplies, and more. If not, these tasks will fall to you. You must still make time to look after your own welfare. Don’t just schedule an appointment at the doctor for Mom – arrange some self-care for yourself, too. Educate yourself about the ins and outs of caregiving by taking a class or joining a support group.
Why a senior living community might be a great fit for your parent
Now that you’ve considered what it will take for your parent to move into your home – or for you to move into theirs – you might conclude that you are ready to take the plunge. Or, you could be feeling like it’s too much to handle. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to having Mom or Dad live with you – some of which might be close to home. So next, let’s navigate the landscape of senior living communities.
8 reasons senior living might be the best choice for your parent
1. Assisted living communities offer services and amenities that are difficult to replicate at home
These communities typically provide healthy meals, planned events and programs, opportunities for socializing, and comfortable living spaces – all in a safe, tight-knit, self-contained environment. This attractive combination of features isn’t easily replicated at home.
2. Assisted living communities provide professional caregiving
Many assisted living neighborhoods capably manage challenging situations including chronic illnesses and limited mobility. Dedicated caregivers help with the daily activities of life, from bathing, toileting and getting dressed to medication management and more.
3. All-inclusive pricing makes budgeting easy
Assisted living can simplify life for you and your parent because the monthly rental rate includes their apartment, food, utilities, on-site events and programs, and housekeeping. Some communities may include care services in the rental rate, too.
4. Social connection is part of the design
If you are concerned that your parent will lack a social life, the right assisted living community typically maintains a calendar of events featuring group outings and activities such as movie nights and game nights, along with common areas where residents can sit, relax and talk.
5. Support and amenities create more time to enjoy life
Let’s face it: Many older adults are tired of daily tasks like housekeeping, cooking and home maintenance. That’s part of the “assisted” in assisted living. An on-site staff takes care of these things so residents can focus on enjoying life.
6. Apartments are designed for older adults
Assisted living communities often offer a selection of private or shared apartments designed to meet each resident’s personal preferences and budget.
7. Senior living communities support family relations
With the stress and challenges of caregiving taken off your plate, family dynamics shift. You can instead enjoy time with your parent, rather than letting their meals, appointments and overall well-being consume you.
8. Memory care communities support those with cognitive impairments
If your parent has challenges due to Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, they might do well in a memory care community. In some cases, assisted living communities offer memory care in a separate, secure neighborhood, while some communities provide memory care only. Memory care services focus on safety and security, with staff on-site 24/7 to provide assistance and support as needed.
Some communities tailor their approach to memory care with thoughtful community design and a staff trained to anticipate the needs of each resident. You may also find programs with a strong emphasis on cognitive stimulation.
While moving your parent out of their home can be a challenge, it can also open the door to a better, richer life. So, take the time to think deeply about the move. If you are finding the process to be difficult or overwhelming, know that the feeling is normal. Stay open to all possibilities and you will find the best living arrangement for your parent.