As life comes full circle, senior parents often move back in with their adult children. According to Pew Research Center, in 2016, 20% of the population in the U.S. lived with multiple generations under one roof. If your parent is moving in with you, it can be an amazing bonding experience for both of you. However, that doesn't mean living with an aging parent is easy. Open the lines of communication and discuss the following questions and concerns with your parent.
Why is your parent moving?
If your parent is moving in with you because they are financially strapped, that's a completely different situation than if it's because of health concerns, their spouse's death, or another reason. Each circumstance provides different challenges. Talk to your parent and everyone else in your household about how you will be able to meet those challenges as a team.
If poor health is an issue, think about whether moving in with you is truly the right choice. Will you have to hire a caregiver or nurse to be in your home? Will you need to be available to transport your parent to doctor's appointments? Would an assisted living community or a nursing home be a better alternative?
Is your house ready?
If you've decided your parent is moving into your home, be sure the house itself is safe and ready. For parents with mobility issues, you may need to install ramps, handrails, or even a stair chair. For wheelchair accessibility, you will probably want to remodel your bathroom and kitchen, or at least widen doorways, add shower rails, and install proper lighting.
Will the financial responsibility fall on you?
Does your parent have retirement savings or Social Security income? Did they receive a death benefit from a spouse's life insurance policy or proceeds from a house sale? Have an honest, open talk about the state of your parent's finances and what they expect you to cover. Consider the additional outlay for food, medical costs, transportation, and possibly hiring a caregiver.
Can you provide enough privacy?
You need to give your parent enough privacy and make sure you retain yours as well. When they first move in, things may be awkward as you both try to maintain your routines while including the other. Though it can be a tough tightrope to walk between being caring and being overbearing, don't treat your parent like a child. Allow them to make changes in decor in their space, as well as decisions about their health, meals, and entertainment. You want them to feel at home in your house, which is now their house, too.
Is your parent dealing with social isolation?
Senior social isolation is one of the biggest health threats to older adults. The death of a spouse, separation from friends, loss of mobility, and lack of transportation can cause a person to feel alone and isolated. As you can imagine, a senior who has just uprooted themselves from their own home, community, and routine and is now in a new, unfamiliar situation may suffer from social isolation.
Research from the National Institute on Aging indicates that social isolation in older adults can contribute to a number of health risks, including anxiety, cognitive decline, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even death. Deep boredom, hoarding, lack of personal hygiene, poor eating habits, and self-loathing are all signs a person may be isolated.
If physically and mentally capable, your parent should look for volunteer opportunities, take a part-time job, or join clubs to interact with more people and find a sense of purpose. Seniors who are occupied with meaningful activities tend to live longer and more happily.
Having a parent move in will be a big change for both of you. It can cause expense, fatigue, and stress. However, with honest communication, it can be a rewarding experience for all. If you can allow your parent to retain their own personal sense of identity while also welcoming them into your life, everyone can flourish in a multi-generational household.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Author: Jim Vogel