When your elderly parents move in with you

Here's how to take care of aging parents in your home.

  • By Rodney Brooks,
  • U.S. News & World Report
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Moving elderly parents into your home can bring daunting challenges and unexpected closeness. Over the past 20 years, parents living with their adult children has become increasingly common.

Among adults living in someone else's household, 14% were the parent of the household head in 2017, up from 7% in 1995, according to the Pew Research Center. "While the rise in shared living during and immediately after the recession was attributed in large part to a growing number of millennials moving back in with their parents, the longer-term increase has been partially driven by a different phenomenon: parents moving in with their adult children," according to the Pew report.

Where to retire comfortably

How much do you need to retire? It depends heavily on where you live.

If your children also return home after college, you might find yourself supporting both your children and your parents at the same time. "It’s a life-changing event," says Dara Luber, a senior manager for retirement product at TD Ameritrade. "The most important thing is to make a plan. Discuss your goals, the finances and the blueprint, which includes the possibility of in-home care or nursing home care." Here's how to care for aging parents in your home.

Financially prepare for a new household member

An additional family member living under your roof will add new costs to your budget. "Depending on whether health care is needed for aging parents, often the most disruptive implications are the financial cost of supporting another dependent and having the space to accommodate them in the household dynamics," says H. Adam Holt, founder and CEO of Asset-Map in Philadelphia. Discuss whether your parent will be contributing Social Security income or other retirement assets toward household expenses.

Some people need to cut back on other costs in order to financially support a parent. "Make sure you are adjusting your own financial plan. It may mean you need to work longer or save more or spend less," Luber says. "The adult children may not be prepared for the fact that having their parents move in might have an impact on how they save for retirement."

Consider hiring help

Many people aim to take care of their parents themselves. However, caring for a parent with significant health problems who needs help with basic living tasks can quickly become overwhelming. "If you are 70 and your parents are 90, you won’t be able to pick them up," says Mitchell Katz, partner and co-founder of Capital Associates Wealth Management in Bethesda, Maryland. "Sometimes people need help even going to the bathroom."

It can be difficult to balance caregiving responsibilities with a full-time job. An aging parent might need 24-hour care. You could hire a home health aide during your working hours or use an adult day health care service, but this can be expensive in many parts of the country. "The child taking care of a parent may need to scale back his or her own career to take care of a parent," Katz says.

You also need to prepare your home to make it safer for an elderly parent. Consider whether your parents will be able to handle stairs, or if they will need a bedroom on the first floor. Find out if your doorways are wide enough for wheelchair access and if you might need to install wheelchair ramps.

It can be exhausting and emotionally draining to provide round-the-clock care for an older relative. "It's not easy to care for an aging parent," Katz says. "Make sure you take into consideration family dynamics and determine who will be responsible for what."

Make a plan before the move

If there's a possibility of one or both parents moving in with you, start a conversation about the transition as early as possible. You don't want to be initiating a move in the middle of a crisis or urgent situation, such as a health emergency or the death of one parent. Both your spouse and children need to be included in these relocation discussions.

Parents moving in may have their own activities and medical appointments, which may take time away from normal family routines. "Your time budget has shifted," Luber says. "You may have other priorities. Your children are getting older. You may have thought you would have more time for hobbies. Now you take care of your elderly parents."

It may also be emotionally difficult to watch your parents age. "Your parents were once your caretaker, and now you are theirs," Luber says.

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