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Today, more people call off work to take care of aging or ill parents than to take care of a child. Faced with the challenges of day-to-day life while also seeing to the needs of an aging loved one, many families consider moving their loved one in with them. On a very basic level, the move makes sense. As a caregiver, you can worry less and do less running around. You also may benefit from extra help from your spouse or children. Additionally, it may allow your family to grow closer during a loved one's final years.
But the decision to let a family member move in with you involves major life changes for all involved and merits careful consideration and discussion.
The essential first step to such a move, says the Family Caregiver Alliance, is to start an open and honest conversation with Mom and other family members who may be affected, both directly and indirectly. This conversation needs to be active and ongoing. Things to be discussed include possible residential options, each person's role in the transition, the type of care to be provided, changes in lifestyle, finances and the physical setting of the new home.
At first, moving Mom (or Dad) in with you may seem the simplest and most economical solution, but you should consider all the options. Perhaps everyone's needs may be met just as well by moving Mom closer, taking advantage of the various types of housing and living arrangements available. Options include nearby apartments or houses, a retirement community, assisted living, nursing homes and more. What you ultimately decide to do should depend on Mom's care needs and preferences, your finances and hers, and your options.
One reason for moving Mom out of her own home may be that it is no longer well-suited for her needs. But, is your home that much better? Do you have plenty of room to ensure her independence and privacy? Will you need to make modifications to your home to accommodate Mom's mobility and security issues (e.g., removing tripping hazards, installing bathroom grab bars, upgrading door and window locks)? What belongings or pets will Mom want to bring with her?
Also consider what this move will mean to the people currently living in your home. If children are involved, will they give up space, independence or privacy when grandma moves in? Older people often prefer it warmer, will this affect your comfort or utility bills?
There also are some financial concerns. How involved do you want to be in Mom's finances? How involved does she want you to be? Will she contribute to household finances? Are your siblings and other relatives OK with you handling Mom's finances or receiving assistance from her? Can you claim Mom as a dependent for tax purposes? What expenses might you be able to deduct? Just as with other aspects of the move, finances should be discussed openly with everyone affected.
The move also requires you to consider some legal issues. Before the move, Mom should have a will, an advance health-care directive or living will, a financial power of attorney and a health-care power of attorney. You also should have a written agreement considering the costs of moving Mom in, and in what ways, if any, other siblings and relatives will help. Seek out an attorney specializing in elder law for assistance in drawing up this agreement.
Finally, don't ignore your own needs and that of your immediate family. The move will significantly affect your family's lifestyles and emotions. Make sure you still get the exercise you need, eat healthfully and stay engaged socially. Encourage Mom to continue to live as independently as possible, and make arrangements so that you can still have time to yourself or with your family.
Some of these things you need to consider before Mom moves in. Others can be put off until after the move, but they should still be addressed. Ultimately, your goal is to see to Mom's needs in the most effective way, while maintaining her connections to family and community. Hopefully, you'll find that providing support and care for your parents is a rewarding experience that gives you the opportunity to give back what your parents once gave to you.