By Joy Loverde
When times are tough, like they are now, sometimes well meaning caregivers of aging parents insist that their parents move in with them without full consideration of what can happen. The most serious stories include elder abuse and neglect, the fastest growing crime in America today. The arrangement of sharing one's home with aging parents often stirs ambivalent feelings for everyone involved.
We mean well when we ask our loved ones to move in with us; but we may not realize the potential negative consequences – emotionally, financially and otherwise. For example, if parents move in and contribute to the cost of remodeling the house to accommodate their needs, do they gift their portion of the house to the caregiving child? How do siblings feel about this financial arrangement? Should parents have a contract in which they pay the children for caring for them? How does this living arrangement affect a person’s eligibility for Medicaid?
I’d like every caregiver who is currently thinking about this under-one-roof lifestyle for them and their aging parents to take a deep, deep breath and proceed cautiously and slowly. If you have already exhausted the multitude of senior-housing options I offer in my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner, and you have made the decision that combining households is the best option, then promise me before anything else that you’ll take a family consensus as the final checklist before the move.
Here are the questions to consider:
Ask your aging parents:
Do you want to move in and share a household with my family?
Are there relationship conflicts that need to be resolved before you move in?
Do you feel that you can talk openly with me about your feelings?
Are you prepared to help with any costs?
Are you comfortable switching doctors if you have to?
How long are you prepared to live here?
Ask other family household residents
Would anyone resent this living arrangement?
What adjustments would you have to make to your lifestyle?
Will you pitch in and help?
Are you willing to treat this person as family member, not to be ignored or isolated?
Discuss with non-resident siblings
Will you help care for our parents in the event they get sick and need extra care?
How will you pitch in when it’s time for me to take a break or vacation or if I get sick?
Are you prepared to contribute financially to this arrangement?
Will my spouse and children get the attention they need?
How will this decision affect my personal and professional goals?
Is there another family member who already requires time and attention?
Am I good at delegating responsibilities?
Will my elder have access to a full range of activities outside the home?
Will we create ways for my elder to contribute to the family and feel needed?
Is there a plan to preserve privacy and autonomy for everyone?
Is my family financially and emotionally stable enough to take this on?
The arrangement of sharing one’s home with aging parents is not for the faint at heart. If you succeed, you are beating the odds! We'd love to hear your story in the comments below.