Moving in with a Child: Should you do it?
By Lisa M. Petsche
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When older people are living alone, there may be concerns about their physical well-being, emotional well-being or both. Particularly in situations where they are having health problems or do not live close by, a son or daughter may invite them to move in.
If you receive such an offer, ask yourself the following questions and take time to honestly and thoroughly answer each one before making a decision.
What kind of relationship do you and your son or daughter have? How well do you get along with others in the household? Any personality clashes are sure to be magnified when you are living under the same roof.
If you need assistance, are you comfortable with the idea of role reversal?
Your Needs and Expectations
Would the move uproot you from important relationships and community connections such as supportive longtime neighbors, a church congregation or seniors' clubs?
If you have a pet, can it be accommodated? If your child has pets, are you comfortable around them?
If you have a chronic illness, how are your needs likely to change? Would you expect your family to provide whatever help you may require? If so, are they willing and able?
Your Family’s Needs and Expectations
Would you be expected to contribute to the household in practical ways, such as cooking meals or providing child care?
If you require assistance: Would your child or other household members be able to cope with the demands of caregiving? Would they have enough time to devote to the rest of their family? Would they still have time for whatever else is important to them?
- Do you and your son or daughter have similar lifestyles and values? If not, are differences likely to be an ongoing source of tension?
- If you require care, how might your needs affect your child’s work life, social life, vacation plans and other pursuits? Is he or she prepared to make adjustments?
Would you be within walking distance of a convenience store, pharmacy or bank? What about proximity to a place of worship? Would you be close to public transit routes? Easy access to at least some amenities would maximize your independence.
Would friends and former neighbors be able to visit frequently? Consider the distance they would have to travel to get to your new location and what type of transportation is available to them.
If your child lives in a different area, how easily could you link with needed medical supports such as a new primary care physician? What kinds of community support services are available to assist in meeting your needs, either now or in the future?
How much would you be expected to contribute toward household expenses?
Do you have savings or insurance that would cover the cost of any needed medical equipment or healthcare services? If not, would your family be prepared to pay for them?
Is there sufficient space in the home to meet everyone's needs for privacy? Would you have separate living quarters?
How accessible is the home? If adaptations would be needed, what is the estimated cost and who would pay it?
Before making any decisions, explore alternatives:
- home healthcare services and other home supports such as meals on wheels;
- live-in help;
- home renovations; and
- moving to a condominium, seniors' apartment complex or assisted living facility.
Find out if any of these options are appropriate and affordable.
If you decide to move into your son or daughter’s home, consider a six-month trial period with a clear understanding that other options will be pursued if you, your child or other household members feel it's not working out and issues can't be resolved.
Keep in mind that such a plan involves changes in family dynamics and household routines that will affect daily living. Therefore you need to allow plenty of time for everyone involved to adjust.
There are bound to be some difficulties, but these can usually be worked through if you are committed to making the arrangement work.
Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer specializing in health and elder care issues.