You’re worried sick about your aging parent. Their health is on the decline and they haven’t been coping well in their own home.
You’re thinking about having them move in with you. Your spouse is open to discussing it but isn’t completely sold on the idea.
You think that having your parent move in will solve a lot of problems. It will be far easier for you to check in on them. It will cut out a lot of travel for you. Plus, you won’t have to worry about them falling and no one discovering them for hours.
You’re working from home anyway right now, so it will be a lot more convenient for you.
The money from the sale of their home will help cover any paid care they might need. And it will help bankroll any renovations you need to make to your house to accommodate them.
To top it all off, you’ll be setting a good example for your kids, showing them how family members can support each other.
Your spouse is concerned that you may be overlooking some issues.
- As close as you are to your parent, you can push each other’s buttons and get on each other’s nerves.
- Is your house big enough for everyone?
- What will happen to everyone’s privacy?
- Have you talked this through with your parent?
- Is this what they really want?
- What happens when they require more care?
- How will this impact your careers? Finances? Mental health?
Think it through first
Having a parent move in with you is a huge undertaking. As such, you really do need to have some open and honest discussions before going this route. And if you decide to take it further, you’ll also need to explore whether it’s practical.
Open and honest discussions
Not all parents want to move in with their adult children. They don’t want to be a burden. Or they’re not keen about living under your roof and your rules. These are both valid concerns. Your principal objective may be to keep them safe, but they may be more focused on holding on to their independence and maintaining their dignity. Can you strike a balance?
Above all, don’t get miffed if they decline your generous offer. It might just not be for them. There are other options (laid out later in this article).
Of course, your family needs to have a say in this as well. It’s their home too. Make sure you think about the impact on them. Everyone will need to be on board if this is going to work.
You might also want to check in with your siblings, even if they live at a distance. If you move ahead without talking with them, they may misconstrue your intentions. Siblings sometimes compete for their parents’ attention and approval, even after they grow up. Maybe your siblings will see this as an attempt by you to show that you’re a better son or daughter than they are. Try not to let this sort of thinking take hold.
If everyone is onboard with the idea of having your parent move in, here are some of the practicalities you’ll need to consider:
- What sort of modifications will you need to make to your home? Cramming your parent into the guest room for an extended period and having them share a bathroom may be asking for trouble. Think about creating a separate living area for them and maybe even their own kitchenette. (Kitchens are one of those areas that can be flashpoints for extended families, especially if different people have different ideas about how frequently the dishes should be washed.) Can you afford these sorts of renovations? Will they allow your parent to stay living with you even if their condition worsens? How will the renovations affect the resale value of your home? Do municipal by-laws prevent you from carrying them out?
- Do you have pets? If so, they may be a tripping hazard for your parent if they’re unsteady on their feet. Does this mean you’ll have to give up the family pet?
- What sort of financial impact will this have on your family? Sometimes middle-aged children dip into their savings to help out a parent. Will this have long-term consequences for you (e.g. not as much saved for your own retirement or your children’s education)? Consider more than the one-time expenses associated with renovating your house and moving your parent in with you. Chances are your day-to-day expenses will increase as well, perhaps several thousand dollars a year, more if your parent has dementia.
- What impact will this have on your (and your spouse’s) career? It’s relatively easy being there for your parent when you’re working from home during the pandemic. But what happens if you have to start commuting to an office again or travel for business in the future? Will there be someone at home with your parent? If not, are you okay with that?
- Will you be able to take vacations? You may have gotten used to foregoing vacations during the pandemic, but at some point we’ll have the option of travelling again. The thing is that may not be possible for you if it means leaving your parent at home. Is there someone who can “housesit” while you’re away? Time away will be very important if you’re supporting your parent 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- Consider the what-ifs. What’s your Plan B if things don’t work out? Suppose your parent’s care needs change beyond what you can support? Or what if, despite everyone’s best efforts, your parent simply doesn’t enjoy living with you. Are you prepared to move on, despite the time, effort, and money you put into accommodating them? If you’re not, this could become a real sore point in your relationship with them.
Alternatives to having your parent move in with you
Maybe your home simply can’t accommodate your parent, even with renovations. You could consider moving in with your parent or finding a new home where you could all live together. But again, you’ll need to evaluate these options carefully.
Of course, there are alternatives to having your parent live with you.
- Your parent stays put in their own home – You find ways to put extra support in place for them that don’t rely on you carrying the whole load. This may involve paying for home care services (above and beyond what’s publicly-funded). Or you could consider calling upon your parent’s neighbours, friends, and other acquaintances to form a circle of support.
- Your parent moves to a condo – If their current home is simply too big for them or stairs are a problem, a smaller, single-level apartment or townhouse may be a safer environment. If that’s the case, check out my post “Helping Your Aging Parents Decide to Downsize.”
- Your parent moves to a retirement community – Some of the advantages of retirement community living include built-in opportunities to make new friends and stay active. If your parent has trouble with personal care activities or managing their own medications, staff can help them. By the way, be sure not to confuse retirement homes with nursing homes.
Getting someone to help you sort out your options
It’s a lot to consider. And you may be a little unsure how to broach the subject with your family and your parent.
That’s why it can be helpful to get a professional involved. You may be surprised to learn that there are real estate agents, specially trained to work with seniors, who not only look after buying and selling homes, but help families through sticky situations like yours.
If you or your parent live in the Vaughan area, I’d be happy to sit down with you for a free consultation.