Another "move-in" situation that I have yet to address is becoming more common. It is also much more difficult since it tends to be long term with major commitments in time, effort, and expenses: having a parent or two move in with your family. PR expert Ginny Grimsley, sent me the following from David Horgan, a gentleman with plenty of experience in this area. I felt it worthy of your attention. I pass it along to you, with a few minor edits.
When Your Parent Moves In
There is a rising trend of parents moving in with their adult children. All across the country unexpected problems that arise from this living arrangement can cause family arguments, financial stress, even increased divorce. The arrangement can also be enriching, a strong statement of love for parents from their grown children, and a lesson in responsibility.
Before moving a parent in and making a life altering change to the family harmony, there are many things to consider. Inviting an elderly parent to move in has far reaching implications on every aspect of your life, from financial impact to changing family dynamics, from role re-assignment to safety issues, from power struggles to eroding privacy.
- Be Open: Have a clear and open discussion with your family, siblings, spouse, kids, and ultimately your parent(s), to decide if making the move is the right decision for all parties involved. Discuss:
- The pros and cons
- The different ways this move will effect the family
- The ways each family member’s routines may be disrupted.
- Expectations that may differ from “the way things have always been”
- Any possible monetary issues that could arrive
- Compromises that each family member will have to make
- Medical Management: An elderly parent is apt to have a litany of doctor appointments, medication, and needs.
- With the help of medical and geriatric care professionals, assess your parent’s medical needs and gain a clear understanding of how those needs will affect you and your family.
- Gather all possible medical resources, containing both specific people and organizations, to minimize frustrations as well as possible mistakes.
- Use your support network to create and implement a plan as well as back-up plans.
- Moving Day: Moving is stressful under any circumstance. Moving in an aging parent entails a permanent lifestyle change and one that may be met with resistance, which can make it even more difficult. Plan for every detail upfront to minimize the potential strife.
- Ready yourself for possible volatile emotions and flaring tempers from all parties.
- Use your utmost compassion and support when you decide what stays and what goes.
- The move may not have been a parent’s first choice. Avoid sweeping decisions, such as throwing away Grandma’s 50 year-old collection of National Geographics, without discussing it with her first.
- Decide ahead of time on furniture placement.
- Make a disbursement plan for who gets items that cannot fit into your house. (Storage, give away, other siblings.)
- House Rules: Your parent is used to running the household with his/her own rules. Everyone must openly acknowledge that each family member must compromise to make the new living arrangement successful. It is important to create a plan that is respectful to all parties, so your parent doesn’t feel slighted and uncomfortable as the “newcomer” to your home. You also want to make sure that you and your spouse do not feel like outsiders. Decide on:
- Who waters the plants and feeds the cat etc.
- Who helps and who doesn’t help in the kitchen
- How you like laundry done
- Bathroom etiquette
- What you make for dinner and what time
- When are lights out, and television off
The economic reality is that your, or your partner's, parents may not be able to afford a retirement home, continuing care community, or even a well-run nursing center. As Mr. Horgan points out, there will be changes in everyone's life that could last years. As the parent declines, nursing care will become more of an issue. This is not an issue with easy answers. But, it is certainly a good idea to work out as many details as possible ahead of time. There will be enough stress as it is.
I'd be quite interested in your comments, especially if you have had to face this problem, either as the adult child or the parent who moves in. Your experiences and feedback will be quite valuable to us all. If you'd feel more comfortable sharing anonymously, that is perfectly fine.
My thanks to David Horgan, an award-winning medical educator, filmmaker and director from CaregiverVillage.com. he has written a book that provides his firsthand account of what to do, what not to do, and what can happen (the good and the bad) in his book When Your Parent Moves In. Mr. Horgan is also Media Director for Project-13, a non-profit drop out prevention program in Holyoke, Ma that reaches inner-city kids through film and music production as well as practical work experience. http://www.whenyourparentmovesin.com/