Caring for an aging parent can be a challenge, one that many adults face. Coming up with a comprehensive strategy can be stress-inducing, and it seems there’s no single right or wrong answer. While the solution may seem simple, like moving in with elderly parents in your home or theirs, it’s not quite so easy.
Unfortunately, uprooting someone’s current life is rarely straightforward, especially when they’re older. Several questions and concerns can pop up, such as where they’ll live or where you’ll store items when downsizing. Since planning for what’s to come can help minimize the disruption, consider taking a step back from the situation to try to sort through a plan.
There may not be right answers, but there you can ask yourself the right questions to come up with a solution. Try to be flexible throughout this process. Realize that even if you answer a question with certainty now, things could change later on. Answer these questions as honestly as possible so you and your parents can sustain the best quality of life possible.
Deciding If It’s Time To Move Your Parents
The only people who can answer whether you should move in with your aging parents are you, your family, and your parents. To help make your decision easier, consider all aspects of the decision.
It’s worth noting that deciding to live with your parents again is rarely ever a one-dimensional decision. People get accustomed to their routines, and adding another person or two into the mix can significantly alter living dynamics. The change can be extraordinarily cumbersome if the loved one requires outside care due to a disability or has experienced a mental decline.
The best thing you can offer to yourself and your parents is a candid assessment of the situation. Even if a sudden illness or a financial setback seems to be forcing a decision, it’s worth exploring how that decision will impact you and your family.
Answer these important questions on whether elderly parents should live with you:
- How much care do my parents require? Will I need to hire outside help?
- Do my parents want to change their lifestyle? Are they ready to downsize?
- How will my lifestyle change if they move in? How will the family dynamics change? Is this a compromise that is worth it?
How do you know when an elderly parent can no longer live alone?
The most common sign an elderly parent isn’t able to live on their own is in how they care for themselves and their home. A lack of self-care for basic needs such as showering or cleaning could be a sign they cannot take care of this without assistance. They may also struggle to navigate their home, such as not being able to use stairs or difficulty with small bathrooms.
Related Article: A Homeowner’s Guide to a Happy Home Addition
Deciding Where Your Elderly Parents Should Live
If it’s clear that your parents can no longer take care of their household, they should move somewhere that is more accommodating. This new home could be a smaller apartment, assisted living, a nursing home, or moving in with a family member. Sometimes parents are ready for this transition, and sometimes they are not. Your job will be to explore all the options and then teach your parents about the best ones based on all factors, including their opinion.
Sort through the following questions:
- If we decide on a nursing home or senior living community, can we afford it? What type of financial assistance is available?
- Are there other family members that can help support my parents? How can we help prevent loneliness and depression if they move into a nursing home?
- Would I consider moving closer to an assisted living facility, or should I choose a living arrangement that is close to my current home?
- How will I feel if I decide to move away from my aging parents? Will this impact our relationship? Will they understand?
- Is it possible to relocate my family to be closer to my parents?
- Is my home large enough for my parents to live with me? If not, where could my parents live? With a sibling? With another family member?
- How much will our budget change if my parents move in?
- Is it safe for my parents to live with me? Do we need to be wheelchair accessible? Are our bathrooms safe to navigate? If not, can we make them safe while staying within our budget?
What is the tax credit for an elderly parent living with you?
For adult children caring for a parent financially, whether they live with you or not, you may be able to claim them as a dependent on your taxes. Certain criteria must be met. As long as no one else claims them and they meet a maximum income level, which varies by year, you can earn a tax credit. It should be noted that their social security payments and other tax-exempt pensions do not count towards their income.
Preparing For The Transition
Once you know where your parents are moving to, figure out how you will make it work. It can be challenging to care for an elderly parent in your home, and it is hard to move your parents into a nursing home.
If your parent is making the decision, discuss the following:
- Will they have any financial responsibility?
- What space is available in my home for them to live in? Will they be able to have privacy? How can we make things more private?
- Will they share any household responsibilities, like chores?
- How will we downsize their current belongings? Will we hold an estate sale?
Related Article: Inheriting a House Full of Stuff: Here’s What to Do
Determine How You Will Cope With Challenges
Even if you answered every question to this point and came up with a plan, there’s a significant chance that there will be challenges and changes.
After you have your initial plan, figure out how you will overcome potential challenges:
- How can I live with a parent and still maintain boundaries?
- Is it possible to communicate with my parents healthily? If not, how can we improve communication before we move in?
- If my parents have a severe illness, what support and resources do I have to cope with that challenge?
- What will I do if my parents refuse to move?
- What if they move in with me, and it doesn’t work out? How do I ask my parents to move out of my house?
Tips for Living with an Elderly Parent
Now that you’ve tried to answer the questions on your own, here are some tips for living with or caring for an elderly parent.
1. Make a pros and cons list
If you are having trouble deciding if moving in with elderly parents is the right call, assess the pros and cons of having a parent live with you. Create a list with items such as:
- My parents can help babysit occasionally.
- Our relationship will become stronger.
- We might argue and ruin our relationship.
- My parents need more care than I can give.
2. Practice honest communication
Don’t forget your parents’ sense of agency, even if they are aging and might have some health issues. Avoid talking down to them or parenting them throughout this transition. Talk to each other like peers as often as possible and work on expressing things that bother you.
Listen to your parents and try to put yourself in their shoes. Sometimes it’s helpful to validate their experience and give them time to decide to downsize or change their lifestyle on their own.
3. Seek outside support
It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child, and it often takes outside support to offer your parents the care they require. Before any decisions are made, include all your siblings, even if they live out of town. They might be able to help out financially, even if they cannot be physically present.
Be an advocate for your parents and figure out their most significant vulnerabilities. Will they need therapeutic services? Should you schedule visits or game nights if they live outside the home?
Related Article: Critical Advice for Moving Elderly Parents into Your Home
Most people who look for advice on moving in with elderly parents don’t realize that they know the answer deep down. Perhaps they just weren’t answering the right questions and wanted someone else to tell them what to do.
Own your decision and try not to doubt yourself. Make the best of what is available to you at any given moment. This decision is personal and unique to every family. The best thing you can do is support your loved one while supporting yourself.
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage Blog on 4/29/20 and was revised on 7/7/23 to provide new information.