Together Again: Should Aging Parents Move In with Their Adult Children?

You have managed to successfully raise your family and are now enjoying your independence that the empty nest affords.  You have a daily routine and are used to being in control and on your own. Sometimes, however, life throws us a curve ball.  Perhaps you have recently lost your spouse, or you have been dealing with increasing health concerns. Maybe your children are telling you more and more that they are worried that “you live alone” and “no one is around to help you”.  Neighbors check in with you occasionally; but truthfully, you are worried about your own care if you have health problems down the road. Most importantly, you feel lonely living on your own.  Your adult child has asked you to move in with their family, but is that really a good idea?

Seniors are moving in with their adult children in increasing numbers. According to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data, over 3.6 million parents lived with their adult children in 2007, a 60 percent increase from 2000.

There are many good reasons to meld households and it can be a positive experience for everyone involved: financially, immediate care in case of emergency, and other intangible benefits such as having a close relationship with your grandchildren can make multi-generational living a very attractive option.

Before moving in with your adult child, you need to consider many factors:

  1. Carefully Assess the Situation 

    Will you feel comfortable living in someone else’s home? Each family is different and the dynamics of moving in your adult children can be challenging. It will not be the same relationship you had with your child growing up as you will no longer rule the roost as you did when your child lived with you.

  2. Make a Plan 

    Make sure you plan specifics with your child for this new family living arrangement. Have a frank conversation and establish clear boundary lines of how this relationship will work.  Discuss everything ahead of time and create a family contract to help avoid future misunderstandings.

  3. Clarify the Financial Arrangements 

    It is typically more cost effective for two families to live under one roof, but nothing ruins multi-generational harmony more than a misunderstanding over finances.  Decide up front what your contribution will be each month toward family expenses and put it in writing.

  4. Outline the Household Duties

    Discuss with your child what a typical day would look like. Will you be cooking meals, providing household chores, taking care of grandchildren, pets, etc.?  Can you drive or will you need to be driven?  Being clear about expectations – yours and your adult child’s – can help you decide if this is the right move for you.

  5. What are the Care Expectations 

    While this is a difficult and uncomfortable topic to discuss, it is critical everyone is on the same page regarding your health and care. As your health declines, how will it be handled?  If you need personal care, will in-home services be brought in or is the adult child expected to provide the care?  Caring full time for a parent can be very difficult, especially if the child has other full-time responsibilities.  If personal care will be hired, who will be paying for it?

  6. Understand the Boundary Lines 

    Some form of privacy, for both you and your adult child, is critical. If you are a person who enjoys your own space and quite time, make sure the new living arrangements reflect this. Will your living quarters will be sufficiently separate from the rest of the family?  Maybe the house can be renovated to create a separate living space with an “in-law” suite for you. Perhaps it’s possible, legally and physically, to build a small cottage on the same property.  If the current house does not have the right setup, maybe you and your child might invest in a larger house together.

  7. Responsibilities regarding Grandchildren 

    While we all enjoy being around our grandchildren, the constant activity can be challenging for almost any grandparent. Are you expected to provide childcare?  Being a grandparent is very different from being a childcare provider.  Taking on this role might be a difficult transition.  What happens if you disagree with how your grandchildren are being raised?

  8. Address Legal Issues 

    Any money transfers to your child might be considered a gift by MassHealth and it could cause you a problem if you need nursing home care in the future. This is especially true if you contributed money towards the building of an in-law apartment or home renovation. What happens if your adult child gets divorced or you decide to move into a different living arrangement?  Will the money you contributed be lost or returned?  Finally, if you are paying your child to provide care to you, it might be considered taxable income to the child.

Before moving in with your adult child, make sure you discuss your plans with an elder law attorney and financial planner.  Even more important, involve all of your children in these discussions.  If one child will be taking on the lion’s share of the duties, there are ways through inheritance, direct payments, and equity ownership to reflect those varying contributions.  Discussing things with the entire family can also help to minimize negative feelings that other children may have feeling like they may not be “benefiting” equally.  Talking these issues through will go a long way to helping you decide whether moving in with a child is right for you and your family.

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.

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