So, your mom (or dad) is moving in with you. Welcome to a bona fide trend: According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 4.3 million multigenerational households in 2009-20111, a 10 percent increase over 2000.2
While it’s noble, even satisfying to help your parent out after all they’ve done for you, the transition means major adjustments. You may have to accept new financial responsibilities, ask your kids to share a bedroom or make your home more wheelchair-friendly.
Use these five strategies to help ease the transition and enable you to make financial decisions that work for every member of the household.
1. Discuss expectations
Do you expect Mom to contribute to the household budget? What modifications are needed to make the house safe? Does Dad qualify for Medicare or other programs? The answers will often depend on your parent's financial and physical health and will likely change over time. Still, it's a good idea to have these conversations early and revisit them as necessary.
There’s also the question of what help you’re expected to provide. "Once you find out what your mom’s cash flow is like, you'll have to decide what you can afford to cover if there’s a shortfall," says Ben Moore, a premier banker with SunTrust in East Falls Church, Va.
2. Give your parent some autonomy
Losing independence can be upsetting, so allow your parent to keep managing his or her affairs as long as possible. If Dad is still able to drive or Mom has the resources to pay some of her own bills, support those decisions. Taking complete control, while well-intentioned, can undermine aging parents’ dignity. "A little independence can help keep the mind sharp," Moore says.
3. Share the burden
Don't put all of the responsibility for providing care on one set of shoulders. Enlist the help of siblings and other family members. Ask your sister to attend medical appointments. Get your husband to help track her bills. Some families draft a sibling support agreement to formalize who pays for what when a parent comes to live with one sibling.
4. Prepare for the difficult decisions
At some point, the need for care may take a back seat to making some heart-wrenching choices. Plan now for a time when Mom or Dad is no longer able to make critical decisions. A living will allows your parent to express their desires regarding what medical care they want during end-of-life situations. And a durable power of attorney determines who handles your parent’s financial matters when he or she no longer can. Consult with an elder law attorney for more information on these and other vital legal arrangements.
5. Spend quality time together
With a little luck, the added time you spend with Mom or Dad will outweigh the new responsibilities you face. Many families are grateful that their kids can grow close to their grandparents. Family dinners are extra special when three (or more!) generations gather around the table. Encourage Mom or Dad to share their best stories with you and the grandkids. Making time to enjoy each other's company can make this a positive experience for the whole family.