The signs are all there: It’s getting harder for Mom and Dad to get around the house. They can’t drive to their doctor appointments—and they struggle to remember to take their medication. The people who once took care of you are getting older, and now need your help.
If your parents’ needs have reached a point where 24/7 support is required, you may decide that caring for them yourself and having one or both of them move into your home could be the best way to ensure they are receiving the support they need. Plus, it can be a great move for your entire family, allowing grandparents to spend more time with their children and grandchildren.
But are you ready to provide senior home care?
There are many variables to consider when taking an aging parent into your home. Thinking about the following issues before making a move is critical to create a positive experience for all involved.
Is it the right time?
If your parent lives independently, deciding when to start the discussion about him or her making a move to your home can be difficult to pinpoint. Many older adults want to maintain their independence as long as possible and resist the idea of moving in with a family member.
Steven Zarit, a professor and head of Penn State University’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, says that if you bring up the idea of a move and your parent is not receptive, delay the conversation until they are ready.
Honestly ask your parents what they would like to do, as well as when and if they need more help. Keep lines of communication about the subject open, but understand that your parents have a say in their future and living arrangements.
If a parent is open to the idea of a move into your home, Zarit says making the change sooner rather than later—if possible—may prove easier in the long run. He speaks from experience, as his mother-in-law moved in a few years ago.
“In one sense, earlier is better because (the parent) can make an adjustment,” he says. “If they’re relatively healthy, they can get out and establish a routine that is familiar and enjoyable. But it would not be worth pressuring a parent to move who is not ready.”
Who will help you?
If you have siblings, a spouse or children, involve them in discussions with your parent about the move. One of the best aspects of this transition is the valuable time grandparents will get to spend with their entire family.
Zarit said it’s crucial to make plans ahead of time with your family members to discuss how to handle this change, as well as finances, schedules and daily care. Try to find a compromise that gives every party involved some responsibility, even if they do not live in the area.
Making your parents’ care a family affair can provide you with much-needed respite and also provide them with the knowledge that they have the family’s love and support as they transition into a more dependent role. Good relations between siblings might also help parents stave off the notion that they are a burden or a source of stress or conflict between children.
Are you emotionally prepared?
It’s important to expect some ups and downs with any big life change—and to find joy in the opportunity to have your parent in your home.
Particularly if you have children in your home, you may need to make adjustments to daily schedules, meals and lifestyles. If they are willing and capable, ask your parents to help raise the children and let them know they are a welcome addition to your multi-generational home.
Once emotional concerns are addressed, you can focus on more rational aspects of the move, including the amount of space needed, the layout of your home and safety considerations that will ultimately make your home the best fit for your parent and for you.