Q: Mom lives alone in the family home where we all grew up.  She seems lonely since Dad passed away several years ago.  I’m worried about her safety; she lacks socialization and it seems getting around is becoming more difficult. Taking care of a big home by herself is getting difficult.  As her daughter, I feel it’s my duty to care for my Mom.  Is it a good idea for Mom to move in with a loving family member? 

Many of us believe if Mom or Dad need care or assistance, that the solution is for them to move in with one of their adult children. Family members provide the majority of unpaid care for millions of seniors.  According to Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, a study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 35 percent of care recipients live in their caregiver’s home, usually one of their adult children.

Multigenerational living can be a great benefit for some, while for others, it can lead to family conflict. Before Mom moves into the guest bedroom, there are important considerations that should be addressed.

Family Harmony:

  • No matter how close a relationship you may have with your parent, adding another person to your house changes the family dynamic. It is very important to ensure the best quality of life for everyone involved, including members of your own family.
    • How will this move affect your spouse and children? Will living under the same roof again take an emotional toll on you and/or your spouse?
    • Are your parent’s established routines, beliefs and patterns of behavior compatible with yours and your family’s?
    • Do you get along with your parent? Will you be able to establish boundaries that will be respected?
  • Get clarification from your parent’s health care team about your aging parent’s needs.
    • If your parent is in good health and mostly independent, they may initially require minimal care. How will you respond if/when this changes? You should also consider the disease progression and the anticipated future care needs as your parent’s condition changes.
    • If your parent is disabled and/or has received a diagnosis which requires a higher level of care, are you qualified and capable (mentally and physically) to meet those needs?
  • If you have siblings, will they be willing share the burden or will all of it be on your shoulders? Will they be available to take over your parent’s care so you can go on vacation or out for an afternoon?

Your Home:

  • What modifications will need to be made to your home for your parent to safely live there?
    • Will assistive devices, such as grab bars, raised toilet seats, ramps, etc., need to be installed?
    • Will your home’s existing layout need changes to accommodate an aging adult? For instance: Can your home support certain medical equipment? Is it wheelchair accessible?
  • Where will your parent sleep? Will someone have to give up their bedroom, convert another room or perhaps build an addition?
  • Does your parent smoke or drink? If so, would that be a problem for you or around your children?
  • Does your parent have a pet?
    • Who will be responsible for the pet if your parent brings it into your home?
    • Who will take care of the pet if it cannot move into your home due to allergies or other issues?

Money and Legal:

  • Who will pay for the increased expenses? Mounting expenses might require reimbursements or a change in the parent’s Last Will and Testament.
  • If services need to be brought into the home to care for your parent, who will pay for it? Are there resources to tap into for the future as your parent’s health declines, and the expenses increase?
  • If you have to decrease or give up your career, is that factored into the costs?
  • Will your parent contribute to your increased expenses, and if so, will this cause a problem for your siblings? A family contract could be crafted or updated to reflect the new caregiving dynamic.

For many, having Mom or Dad move into your home can be a blessing; for others, it can feel more like a curse. You may want to discuss your situation with an elder law attorney before moving forward. Founded by nurse attorney and with offices in Acton and Sudbury, Generations Law Group helps families develop a comprehensive life plan to make sure a parent’s next step is successful for all the Generations.