Services for Elders and Their Families
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Moving an Elder Parent into Your Home

The holidays are now behind us. For many, this is a rather quiet time of business. People are emotionally spent and over extended from the holidays, and many are using this time to regroup and begin working on those ‘New Years resolutions’.

For those of us that work in eldercare - especially information and referral- this is a very busy time. Why, you ask? Because many adult children went home to visit their elders during the holidays, and came back concerned for their elders’ well being. If you are concerned for your elder, there are many options and choices to offer support. One option that children sometimes consider is moving their parent into their home.

Many adult children invite their elder home to live with them. This can be a true blessing...or a terrible disaster. I have worked with many families over the years that have moved their elder in with them - then called me for help to move them out! I have had as many families call and say that they are considering moving the elder in and want to discuss the pros and cons. If you are trying to decide what is best for you and your elder, perhaps the list below will give you a starting place.

Consider the reasoning behind the move.
If your elder is moving in because they are socially isolated and need more interaction, there should be a plan in place to meet those needs. If there are not a lot of people in your home on a daily/weekly basis, and you work during the day, you better be prepared to be your elders sole primary social interaction.

If your elder needs more personal assistance, or is not able to be alone, how is your home situation going to be different from their own. Do you work? Can your present work situation withstand the stresses of caregiving? Is your job and present personal life able to support these changes?

Examine your own motives.
Why are you interested in changing your living situation. If you have a good relationship, and a strong support system, how will the elder living with you effect your daily life. Sometimes adult children want the elder to move in to repair the relationship, or to build new bridges in the family. Remember that health problems and changes can put a strain on any relationship. When deciding how healthy the relationship is; look at the past as much as the present. If you and your elder have had a stormy relationship, but get along wonderfully now, could it be because you live 600 miles away?

Consider your elders health and physical limitations.
Is your home adaptable for your elder. If your elder has a debilitating illness, know the prognosis for your elders’ condition. If your elder has a rapidly moving disease, any move may be only temporary. You may need to decide if your elder could handle two moves, should a change be necessary.

Examine financial options.
Will the elder be responsible for any of the bills or incurred expenses. Will the elder move into a house that the child already owns, or will you purchase one together. It has been my experience that no one really wants to talk about finances, and it turns up as a point of contention later. I have seen arguments about grocery bills and buying brand name items become explosive. This is where you really want to examine lifestyle and adaptability.

Health care and services needed.
If your elder is moving from another state or another area of the same state, there may not be the same services available for your elder. If your elder is on certain health plans or means-tested assistance - such as one of the Medicaid programs, they may not qualify in another state. If your elder is on any of these plans they could lose a lot of financial and medical support.

Design a plan and measurement for success.
Do a family/household evaluation. Sit down and discuss your feelings with all of the family involved, including any other family in the immediate area. Talk honestly and frankly about everyone’ expectations.

  • Those living in the house. Don’t assume anything. Ask children and teenagers how they feel about the elder moving in and how they feel they can help. If they will be required to assist one night a week, then plan that out.

I had a client previously who was bringing a very ill and demanding elder home to live with her and her family. She and her family already felt strongly that they should bring the elder into their home, and wanted to glean as much from the experience as possible. At my suggestion, the parents took the teenage children out to dinner, and they had a family planning meeting to hammer out the details; who would be in charge of scheduling, who was to do what chores, how to handle the daily stress, what to do when they felt over-burdened, etc. Then we all sat down together to design a plan, and ways that we would measure success, which I will discuss later. What a blessing this family was about to have, and what a rare scenario this is!

  • Nearby relatives. Again, Don’t assume anything. Talk about their feelings about the move. If you have any expectations at all such as; respite care from nearby family members, financial assistance, assistance on days when the elder is ill, etc., ask if they will be part of the team. Let them be honest. If they are not in support of the move, for any reason-logical or not, let them voice their opinion without judgment. You can never force support.

Sometime ago I had a client who called, upset about her siblings general disregard about the care of her mother, on any level. Understandably they lived in another state, and they did not assist in emotional support or in decision making, even when asked. Often in conversations about care plans and daily problems, they pooh-poohed her concerns and feelings, dismissing them saying, she would figure it out.

As in all families, there are many complicated issues and family dynamics, but it was my belief that she was fortunate to be the main caregiver. It was also my belief that, some day, she would be thankful and blessed by having this opportunity. She recently called me to say, she really has been the lucky one.


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