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Lifestyle & General Interest

Should You Move an Aging Parent in With You?


Multigenerational households are becoming more common in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, there are currently four times as many multigenerational households as there were in the 1970s.

This statistic might seem surprising, but the reasons for it are logical. Adult children move in with parents, and seniors move in with their children for economic reasons, to pool resources, or to provide additional support.

Other benefits of multigenerational living arrangements include:

  • Shared living costs: Adults can share the cost of utilities, groceries, and other household necessities.
  • Closer family relationships: Parents have opportunities to foster relationships with adult children and provide support for their family and professional endeavors. Likewise, older parents can interact with children and grandchildren and provide useful assistance, such as cooking and childcare.
  • Support: Multigenerational homes have built-in support systems to help cope with challenges, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Though these arrangements bring positives, they also present challenges. Concerns about privacy and some house members overstepping boundaries may arise, and there are also practical considerations about accessibility and needs. These issues are especially important when older parents move in with their adult children.

Here is a look at the practical considerations to address when welcoming older parents to a multigenerational household.

How Well Will You Get Along?

If there are conflicts within a family, they will undoubtedly surface in a multigenerational household. Even in a large home, it is impossible to indefinitely avoid other family members.

While you might get along with your parents, you also need to consider the state of their relationships with your spouse or partner, children, and anyone else living in the home. You might even want to consider how they would interact with pets and other people in your neighborhood with whom you spend time.

If conflicts exist, you can try to address them before the parents move into the home. You can attempt to resolve them directly with frank conversations. The other option is to set clear boundaries and make all expectations clear from the start.

Is Your Home Older-adult Friendly?

An older parent may have specific needs. You will need to make practical changes to your home to ensure accessibility and, most importantly, safety. According to the CDC, older adults make 3 million visits per year to the emergency room because of falls at home.

Here are considerations for making a home safer so that your parents avoid such incidents.

  • Restroom safety: Handles and rails may be necessary to allow your parents to use the toilet and maintain their balance in the shower or bath. Non-slip mats can also help with safety, and parents with mobility issues may need a walk-in tub.
  • Staircases and ramps: Older adults dependent on walkers or wheelchairs may not be able to negotiate steps. Threshold ramps could accommodate them if they would have trouble negotiating the steps to get into the home. You can also consider modular ramps, which can fold easily when they aren’t needed.
  • Bedroom: Parents may need a specialized bed, such as an automatically adjustable one that is easy to get into and out of without fear of falling. They may also need drawers or closets that are easy to reach.
  • Common areas: Older adults may feel excluded if the common areas of the home aren’t accessible or usable. For example, make sure the living room has chairs, sofas, or other sitting areas that parents can use and easily get into and out of without assistance.

The overall concept of universal design can guide you as you prepare to welcome older parents. This philosophy seeks to make all areas of the home accessible and usable by everyone.

What Kind of Care Does Your Parent Need?

Older parents may need care for specific health issues. It is vital to consider the level of care they require. In some cases, simply adjusting the food you have in the fridge to create a heart-healthy diet is enough to ensure your parents have what they need to remain healthy.

If your parents have significant healthcare needs, you may have to serve as a caregiver in addition to running the household. While it may be possible to provide the necessary support yourself, you can also look into getting a home healthcare service. Home health aides and nurses, sometimes covered by health insurance, can provide necessary medical services and support for your parents, which can take the pressure off you to handle everything yourself.

Are You Prepared for Caregiving?

Caregiving for an aging parent can be challenging and put mental, emotional, and physical strain on you. The effects of being a primary caregiver for an older adult are well known. Approximately 44 million Americans provide care for people who are older or disabled. Studies found higher instances of depression and stress among these unpaid caregivers.

You’ll need to decide if you are prepared to provide care for a parent who may need it. You should also have frank discussions with other household members to see what type of support they’re willing to provide and then decide if you can realistically meet the needs of your aging parent.

How Will Finances Work?

In some cases, creating a multigenerational household will take financial strain off of each working family member. However, there could be additional costs with an older parent.

The first step when considering welcoming an older parent into your home is to select and price the necessary home modifications. Keep the specific needs of your parent in mind. Some modifications or additions are inexpensive, while others could prove quite costly.

You should also consider the cost of additional medical equipment. These expenses can depend on your parents’ insurance coverage and Medicare or Medicaid packages.

Finally, you can discuss the contributions your parents will make to the household. It’s best to talk about this upfront to avoid any misunderstandings.

What Lifestyle Changes Will Be Necessary?

When a parent moves into your home, the lifestyle changes will likely be more significant than deciding who gets to choose what to watch on the living room television.

If your parent requires transportation to medical appointments or regular caregiving, you may need to let your work know about these additional schedule requirements. You might also need to coordinate these duties with your parental responsibilities, including helping with homework, attending little league sports games, and transporting kids to friends’ houses.

On the other hand, able parents may be able to provide childcare, allowing you to attend social events more often and go out with your partner without paying for a babysitter.

You’ll also need to include your parents in family travel plans, which could change the destinations and activities you choose. Selecting older-adult-friendly destinations that also have attractions for other family members is typically a good strategy for planning the most inclusive vacation.

What About Privacy?

Privacy is always going to be an issue in multigenerational households. People will have to share common areas with others and, depending on the size of the home, have limited private space.

The privacy concerns go both ways. Older parents may be concerned about their lack of independence and their need for support from other household members, and children may be worried about giving up private space to their grandparents.

One way to address privacy concerns is to ensure everyone has their own space that no one else in the home can use and where they can have complete privacy without worrying about getting bothered by others. You can also ensure older parents have the devices they need to move independently.

Will Your Older Parent Have a Social Network?

Older parents have the opportunity to interact with family members when they move into a multigenerational household. However, they may still feel isolated or lonely, especially if they have limited mobility.

Therefore, you should consider the options for socializing in your area. A strong social network made up of peers can help older people counteract feelings of isolation and loneliness. This preparation step may require investigating social options for older individuals, such as community centers, local social groups, sports leagues for older adults, or adult daycare services.

With proper planning and careful consideration, you can create a plan to accommodate older parents in your home while limiting the issues that could arise in such a multigenerational household.

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