You might have started to notice that your aging mom or dad isn’t getting around as well as they used to. However, you don’t want to uproot them from their home and move them someplace where you feel like their independence might be compromised. So, what can you do?
According to a Pew Research Center survey, nearly 31.9 percent of the adult population in the U.S. (79 million adults), live in what’s been termed a “shared household.” That’s up from 27.4 percent back in 2004 just before homeownership reached its peak and the foreclosure crisis started to unfold.
While many of these cases are younger adults moving back in with mom and dad while they figure out their careers, a big contributor to this number also comes from more mature adult children moving in with their elderly parents.
If you’re in a situation where you’re able to do this, then it could seem like an easy way to keep a watchful eye on them around the clock and to be there in case anything goes wrong. But making a lifestyle change as big as this won’t be without its own set of challenges. And that goes for both you and your parents.
If you’re considering moving in to take care of your elderly parents, then here are a few tips for making the transition as smooth as possible.
Are You Both Okay with This Decision?
Before taking any action, give some serious thought as to how you feel about pursuing this option.
- How will this impact your ability to give needed attention to your own family, career, and friends?
- Will the move be only temporary or much longer? If so, should you consider giving up your lease or possibly even selling your home?
- Do you have a pet? If so, will they be allowed to come too? If not, who will watch over them while you’re not there?
This may come as a surprise, but your parents might also have their own reservations about you moving as well. The elderly have a habit of confining themselves to certain routines, and your presence there could pose an unintended disruption.
More importantly, what if your relationship with your parents hasn’t been the greatest over the past few years? What if there is still some unspoken resentment. Talk openly about these issues with your parents and be sure you’re both okay mentally and emotionally to go this route.
What Will Be the Purpose of Your Stay?
Another point you’ll want to be on the same page about before you move in is what exactly your purpose or role will be once you get there.
Are you going to be there simply just to keep an eye on your aging parents, or will there be some specific tasks that you might have to carry out? If so, are you able or even qualified to perform these duties? Should you do some homework ahead of time to get prepared or even seek out some official training?
What about routine chores around the house? Just because you moved into their home doesn’t mean you automatically become their housekeeper. Discuss upfront what kind of jobs around the house you are willing (or not willing) to do and which ones your parents might continue to perform.
Define the Boundaries
Even though you’re the child of your parents, the last thing you’re going to want to have happen once you move in is to be told what to do like you’re a teenager all over again.
Likewise, just because you’re there to care for your parents, that doesn’t mean you should treat them like children. You’re both adults, and because of this, it’s going to be important for both you and your parents to establish some rules and boundaries up front.
The best way to do this will be to openly declare what you’re going to do with your time, where you’re going to go, and who you’re going to see. Don’t ask for permission; do the things you’re allowed to do as a grown-up.
Don’t be surprised if this goes well at first, but then they try to pour on the guilt more and more as you go out. The elderly can sometimes be manipulative when it comes to getting their way. So when they start to use behaviors like this, don’t give in to it.
At the same time, remember that your parents will have their own lives too. Even if it’s something as simple as watching a particular TV show or going to bingo, let them have their fun and certainly don’t judge or impose.
Go In With An Exit Plan
It’s all too easy to move in with mom or dad expecting to only stay for a week or two. Then the next thing you know, it's one or two years later!
If you don’t want that to happen to you, then you’re going to need to go into this arrangement with an end game in mind. For instance, you might define a limit where you will only plan to stay no longer than four weeks before seeking out professional full-time care. Or perhaps your end game will use the time to convince your parents to move into your house instead, or possibly consider assisted living.
Remember that you have a life too. You’ve likely got a family of your own to take care of or a job you need to go to so you can continue to pay the bills. Although you may have some feelings of guilt, it’s not wrong to want to get back to these things and way things once were.
Be Strong When the Time Comes to Ask for Help
Despite your best and most sincere efforts, always keep in mind that at some point the situation will simply become more than you can handle alone. When that happens, you need to be prepared to reach out for some additional help.
Sometimes the knowledge about their medications or even the strength required to physically move your parents will require someone with actual training or certifications for these sorts of things. If you start to notice more severe red flags like dementia or even harmful behavior, then it may even be time to explore your options for nursing home care. It's definitely not an easy decision by any means, but ultimately it will be the responsible thing to do and the best thing for their well being.