According to recent studies on multigenerational caregiving conducted by the Pew Research Center, 12% of U.S. parents are also caring for an adult at the same time. This may include adult-aged offspring with developmental disabilities or elderly parents who have moved in with their children.
It’s not unusual for elderly people to move in with their children or other relatives as they get older, lose the ability to maintain independent lives, and/or cannot afford to hire the caregiving help they need to fulfill their personal needs and household tasks like laundry, washing dishes and vacuuming. Sometimes the elderly parent is fully capable of caring for themselves but the costs-of-living have risen to high that they can no longer afford living on their own.
If your parent(s) is in a similar position – seeking more cost-effective geriatric care options – then you as their child have several things to consider and discuss with your own family prior to extending an invitation for them to move in with you. Whereas multigenerational caregiving is the norm in some cultures, it’s still relatively uncommon in U.S. households, particularly when you consider the time, effort and costs involved in caring for an elderly family member in your own home.
Here are some of the most important questions you should consider and discuss before deciding whether or not to let your parent(s) move in with you.
What Are the Reasons for Moving In?
Are they running out of money and Social Security isn’t enough to financially support them? Are they in need of assistance with everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning and driving but can’t afford to hire a part- or full-time caretaker? Or do they simply want to downsize without looking for a new place to live?
Your parents’ reasoning for asking to move in with you could influence your decision quite a bit; if you have a good relationship with your parents, then you would likely feel terrible for leaving them on their own when they need help in their golden years, but it also shouldn’t come at the expense of your own family’s physical, emotional and financial well-being.
How Will This Impact Your Family?
With this in mind, the next question you must consider is how your parent(s) moving in would affect you, your spouse and other members of the family. If you have kids, do they have a good relationship with their grandparent(s)? Is there enough space to give your parent(s) their own room, or would you have to evict one of your kids from their bedroom to make space for grandpa/grandma?
There could be many benefits to letting a grandparent move in: free, consistent childcare from someone you trust, help with household management (if they’re physically able to help with things like chores and running errands for the family), and someone who can take care of pets and plants if you ever go on vacation with just your spouse and kids.
However, you must also be mindful of the potentially jarring consequences of inviting an elderly parent to come live with you: extra time and effort to feed, clothe, bathe and drive them around (if they’re unable to do these things themselves), trading quality time with your kids/spouse to care for your parent, more boundary maintenance (just because you grew up with them doesn’t mean you still have the same values and ways of doing things as you used to), and a higher potential for experiencing “caregiver burnout.”
Can You Readily Accommodate Them?
Do you have the space, emotional energy and resources required to care for an elderly parent? If they are suffering from multiple debilitating medical concerns, then they may require as much care as a small child would (clothing, bathing, feeding, cleaning up after, driving to doctor’s appointments, etc.) If your parent is still relatively independent but is seeking more affordable living circumstances, would you be able to take care of them long-term if they become ill or injured while living with you?
Is you have an elderly parent with dementia, do you have the knowledge and resources necessary to prevent them from getting lost, exploited and/or injured while they live in your home? It can be emotionally challenging to navigate these situations and it’s worth noting that not everyone is able and/or qualified to care for an elderly individual experiencing physical and/or cognitive issues.
You want your parents to live out their golden years in health and happiness, but this doesn’t always mean that you’re the only person who can provide the level of care they need in the comfort of your own home.
How Do Inheritances Work?
Another consideration to make is inheritances; if you have siblings but you agree to personally cover some/all of your elderly parents’ expenses, should you get more money in the form of an inheritance when they ultimately pass?
This is undoubtedly an uncomfortable question to consider, but not thinking about it or discussing it with your family while your parents are still around can lead to much more headache and family quarreling later on.
Recap: Should You Have an Elderly Parent Move in With You?
Having an elderly parent move in with you can be a joyous, cost-effective (free childcare anyone?), and compassionate decision. On the flip side, it can also be stressful, expensive and exhausting if you’re not open and honest with yourself and your family about what you can and can’t handle in terms of the physical, emotional and financial aspects of elderly caregiving.
Parents and other stay-at-home caregivers are often underappreciated in American society, but they are incredibly necessary for so many elderly folks who don’t have enough money saved up for retirement to cover the costs-of-living and long-term healthcare expenses on their own. As apathetic as this may sound, you need to do what’s best for you and your family, so be sure to thoroughly consider your options before automatically having an elderly parent move in with you.