From Guest Room to Ground Rules: What to Consider When Parents Move In
As parents get older and become less independent, having them in the next room can be easier than trekking across town — or even the state — to provide care. And you wouldn’t be alone: These days, an estimated 34 million Americans are personally providing care for older family members, according to Caregiver.org.
Even though it feels good to have your parents nearby, it can take a toll — financially, emotionally and physically. If you’re thinking about moving your parents or in-laws into your home full-time, here are a few things to consider.
Do you have the room?
Parents will at least need their own bedroom, and ideally their own bathroom and kitchen. If you have a spare guest room, a finished basement, or a home addition, you can outfit a senior-specific space for your parents.
“It’s important to consider privacy and safety when assessing your space,” says Susan Zimmerman, a registered nurse from Lake City, Florida, who specializes in gerontology. “If you do not have enough space to accommodate your family and your parents, you may have to re-evaluate or think creatively with the space.”
Some ideas include moving the kids into one shared room to accommodate for their grandparents, or crafting a wall divider to provide additional privacy for your new guests.
Do you have the funds?
If your home is too small, building an addition or renovating part of the home is an option — but the cost can be startling. The national average cost for a mid-range master suite addition is $106,196, according to Remodeling magazine’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, and the midrange cost to add a bathroom is about $40,000. If you opt to work with the space you currently have, you may still have to make some updates.
“You can hire a consultant to visit your home for a senior-specific safety assessment,” Zimmerman says. “They’ll likely look closely at the stairs, bathroom, showers, bed and kitchen.”
Stairs can be difficult on an older adult and you may have to install an electric stair lift (usually running about $5,000 to $10,000). You’ll also likely spend some money upgrading the bathroom — adding grab rails in the showers, tubs, and raising the toilets, according to Zimmerman.
Is the entire family ready for the change?
Moving your parents into your home is a big decision, and it’s one that will affect the whole family.
“It’s important to remember that your parents’ habits don’t go away once they move in, so be prepared,” Zimmerman says. “If a parent smokes, complains or needs a lot of attention, this will most likely stay the same.” So, it’s imperative that everyone who currently lives in the house is aware of the adjustment — the spouse and the kids. Have a family meeting, talk about the changes, and hear everyone’s point of view.
“It’s important to remember that your parents’ habits don’t go away once they move in, so be prepared.” Twitter Icon
“A good way to test the waters is to start with a trial run,” Zimmerman says. “Move them in for an extended vacation in your home and see how it works out.” Besides the people who live in your home, you’ll also want to talk to any siblings and be sure they are on board with this plan — they may even be able to help financially or with care.
Do you have a set of home rules?
Before they move in, it’s a good idea to sit down with your parents to discuss some expectations, Zimmerman says. Will you cook and eat every meal together? Will you respect each other’s privacy? Will you/they have friends over for socializing? Once you have a list of ground rules, you can print them out (and add to them when necessary) to be sure both sides stick to them.
Is this a healthy option for your parents (and for you)?
It’s important to assess your parents’ health both physically and cognitively before they move in, Zimmerman says. Ask questions like: Are they safe enough to be alone? Do they need a home health aide to come over for visits? Can they drive or will you be responsible to errands, trips to the doctor and socializing?
It’s also important to be realistic about health changes that can occur year to year, as your responsibility in terms of day-to-day care may increase, Zimmerman says.
Being a caregiver can take a toll — it can cause depression, prolonged stress and health problems, according to Caregiver.org. If you find you and your spouse providing a majority of care, home health assistance may be a good option to relieve some of the emotional and physical stress, Zimmerman says. But professional help does have a price, especially if your parents do not have a long-term health insurance plan. According to the Administration on Aging, the average cost of a home health care aide is about $21 an hour.
Living with your parents can be an easy way to care for them, but it also has its feats. Take a look at the whole picture to be sure it’s the best route for you and your parents before the big move-in day.