AS A PARENT struggles to live independently, their children’s generous first inclination is to open their home. “Come live with us, Mom,” or “We’ve got plenty of room, Dad,” is an offer many adult children make. It’s a loving gesture to help keep your parent safe and return at least some of the care that they freely received as children.
From a moral standpoint, many people believe that aging parents should have the option to live with their adult children. But, intergenerational living isn’t guaranteed to be successful by default just because everyone is family. It requires careful planning. Many families jump right into moving in together only to face the uncomfortable ordeal of telling their parents that the arrangement isn’t working and looking for alternative options. Adult children often end up feeling stuck and unhappy in their own homes, which is terrible. Thorough research and candid conversations about this arrangement are crucial.
Space and privacy are necessities. In some cases, kids will have to give up or share a room to accommodate a grandparent. Even so, older adults, adult children, teens and younger kids all need their own space at times. Most often both the husband and wife work, often out of necessity. So during the day, an older parent might still be home alone, but no longer with accustomed neighbors or familiar friends nearby. Parents actually might feel more isolated than before.
Family dynamics inevitably change. Will your parent be able to ‘not be the head of the household’? Will they be able to let their ‘children’ make decisions? Helping parents preserve their personal boundaries is essential. Modesty is an element of dignity for many seniors. For parents who need help with showering, bathing or other personal-care issues, hiring a part-time caregiver can allow them to feel better than having sons or daughters step in.
Parents have an important voice in all these decisions around them. For some, living near rather than with adult children keeps their boundaries and independence intact, even while offering regular opportunities for togetherness like sharing weekly family meals. Local senior centers can help parents stay involved and engaged.
For parents who can’t live alone but who won’t thrive in a family setting, other options might work better. It could be that moving a parent into assisted living is the kindest, most loving decision their children can make. Family members can continue to show care and commitment by making frequent visits and regularly staying in touch.
Each elder and family dynamic is different, so it’s challenging to predict what setting an aging loved one would prefer and whether everyone could cohabitate well. Some seniors adamantly refuse to leave their own homes and demand that adult children come to them to personally provide their care. Some are open to services like in-home care and Meals on Wheels to help them retain their independence in their own house. Others are eager to move into an independent living or assisted living community to enjoy their retirement with limited responsibilities.
But the option always lingers for elderly parents and adult children to move in together. When both caregiver and care recipient live under the same roof, it reduces drive time back and forth, makes it easier to respond to accidents at all hours of the day and helps keep costs down. However, it’s important to remember that this decision does involve both financial and personal costs. Utilities and food costs will increase, complete privacy may be in short supply, thereby affecting your relationship with your spouse, caregiving responsibilities will multiply, true respite will be difficult to come by, etc.
Lastly, most families have not lived together in decades. Therefore, anyone who is considering multigenerational living must communicate their expectations for the arrangement and set rules and boundaries beforehand. When several people who are not used to living together begin sharing the same space, things can go south very quickly.
For some people, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. For others, it’s not good for the adult children or the elders. Only you and your loved ones can decide. Just give the move serious thought so you aren’t stuck trying to find a way out of a bad situation later on.