Aging parents are moving in with adult children for various reasons and the trend appears to be growing. Assisted living costs are going up, and as people live longer, it can be a challenge to make assets last a lifetime. If you are an estate planning professional, an elder law attorney, or another professional in the field of aging, this subject may have come up. For many families living with an aging parent is a viable alternative, but careful planning is necessary for a successful transition.
Reasons Parents Move in with Adult Children
We can't ignore the impact that COVID -19 has had on family decisions regarding care. Seniors who chose congregate senior housing did so with amenities such as activities, transportation, and group dining in mind. Now, restrictions on visits and movement in and outside these communities have families rethinking this choice. Social isolation and loneliness are serious consequences of forced quarantine.
Recent news reports of poor care and infection control in nursing homes have prompted families to reconsider leaving love ones in a nursing home. Often, they bring a parent home until they can make other arrangements. Going from nursing home care to home care can be a shock.
Other reasons for considering such a move:
- Family caregiving duties and tasks may have become too difficult, stressful, and costly. Families move a parent home to more easily manage care.
- Financial problems on both sides prompt families to live together and share in costs.
- Assisted living costs continue to rise putting a strain on finances.
To assist families with making this difficult decision, going through a process of thorough pre-planning can be very helpful. Fewer surprises mean less stress.
Advise Your Clients to Make a Pros and Cons List
Ask your client to make a pros and cons list. This exercise will help them plan for potential problems that might come up. Other family members should be included in this process since they too have a vested interest in things going well.
Plan for an Increase in Care Needs
This may be the most overlooked possibility when deciding whether to move a parent in. Unless someone's parents are in great physical health, their condition may get worse. This means the family will need to provide additional care as time goes on. Other considerations:
- Advanced planning should be in place as soon as possible and certainly before a parent moves in. That way an adult child can advocate and make healthcare decisions in case of incapacity.
- Discuss at what point caregiving tasks may be more than what the family can handle. Can the family absorb the cost of private home-care? How will an adult child know when care can't safely be provided any longer? How is this decision made and what specifically needs to be considered?
- If the home needs to be modified to be more accessible, is that even possible? Some homes are very expensive to modify. If someone has a tub shower, changing to a walk-in is safer.
Make sure that the long-range financial plan can absorb the increased costs of care and any current or future home modifications.
Evaluate the Home Environment Before Move-In
Before considering a move, recommend that your client take a good look at the home environment and consider the following:
- Can the home be made more accessible now or in the future? What if there is a need for a wheelchair ramp, or even a wheelchair accessible van? Stairs in particular can pose problems if living quarters are upstairs.
- What will the living arrangement be and how will privacy be handled? Does everyone feel that they have privacy when they need it?
Evaluate what work needs to be completed before a parent moves in. It may be much more stressful to complete work with a parent already in the home. To the extent possible, it may be advisable to complete as much work as possible in advance. Even basic accommodations like grab bars can make a huge difference.
Set Ground Rules on Privacy and Responsibilities
Discussing these topics in advance will help everyone feel comfortable and confident about expectations.
- Respect for everyone's need for privacy
- Delegation of household chores
- A collaborative decision-making process
- How to handle family conflict
Discuss Finances in advance
This will reduce the chance of misunderstandings later. Put everything in writing and consider the following:
- Division of household costs. Will a parent be expected to pay a portion of household costs?
- Cost of repairs and home maintenance. How will the cost of repairs and other home maintenance tasks be shared?
- Are utility costs shared?
Agree to Seek Outside Care Help if Needed
This is important because if a parent needs more help it may be necessary to put care in place as soon as possible. Issues related to the cost of care should be ironed out in advance.
- Encourage your client to discuss specific care tasks that might trigger the need for additional help. This might include help with transfers, showering, eating, toileting, or medical care.
- Consider types of outside help that everyone can agree upon. Does a parent prefer in-home caregivers or would they be open to assisted living? Take a look at the cost of future care needs and discuss who will pay for these increased costs.
- Ask families to identify local resources or online caregiver support groups to provide support and education. Challenge your client to plan for outside socialization like senior centers or adult daycare. Parents can come to depend too much on the family for connection and socialization, but finding other outlets will help everyone.
Have an Escape Plan
At some point, an adult child, spouse, and other household family members may want to end the arrangement. This could be for many reasons, but it is important to value and respect anyone's opinion.
If it is time for a parent to move, have a plan for some other senior living options that everyone agrees upon.
Aging Parents Can Move in With Adult Children
Aging parents can successfully move in with adult children. Being prepared and planning for the unexpected will help families make an informed decision.