Honey, your parents are moving in!

By Debbie Harrison

Many of us have had friends, relatives and co-workers who are suddenly faced with moving their parents or in-laws into their home. This often happens without warning due to a health event such as a fall.

My own elderly in-laws have lived with my husband and me for several years. Even though we work in senior homecare, there were still surprises when Mom and Dad moved in.

What to consider when Mom moves in

The most important thing to remember is that your parents are still your parents. I cringe every time I hear the phrase “parenting a parent.” When we care for our parents, we are honoring them. There are certainly some role reversals, but they’re still your parents.

Once you’ve decided to move your parents in, questions begin to arise. You’ll have another person or two living in your home full time. How can you reconfigure your living space to accommodate them? Will you build an addition? Who will pay for what? Will Mom’s furniture fit in the space you’ve allotted? What about Dad’s 60-years’ worth of collectibles? When my in-laws moved in, they brought enough outdated food to feed a small country, enough plastic wrap to cover the house and 18 versions of every tool known to man.

It’s overwhelming, but to handle this transition, your family needs a plan and a good adviser.

Questions to address

The vision I had when my in-laws arrived was very different than their vision. This can be prevented by putting your plan in writing. Try to involve your siblings, a pastor or other spiritual leader and/or an attorney.

  • Which part of the house will be your private space? (Trust me, you need one!) Which will be Mom and Dad’s private space?
  • Consider finances—your utility, grocery and transportation costs will increase.
  • Will you need to modify your home? This may be as simple as installing grab bars or as complicated as a full remodel. Flooring may need to be replaced to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs, and—believe me—seniors need their own bathroom.
  • Do you still have children at home? That raises a whole new set of questions since parenting methods vary across generations. How many “bosses” do your children need? Who’s giving up a bedroom?
  • Try fixing dinner for three generations. Grandma thinks food should be cooked from scratch, you want to bring home a pre-roasted chicken and the kids want pizza. Who does the laundry? Who drives the car? Who picks the movie?

Although you may not need help caring for Mom and Dad in the beginning, you likely will down the road. Some families are blessed with enough members to share the responsibility. In other cases, their care may be your sole responsibility. If you work, you may require the use of an outside agency or a good day care option for parents with dementia.

Include these options in your plan in advance to take the pressure off everyone. Difficult conversations go more smoothly when you can reference the family plan and what you covered together.

Moving a family member into your home is an act of love and compassion. Don’t set yourself up for failure by not addressing issues that could cause problems. Good luck! (And remember to breathe.)

Debbie Harrison is executive director of Visiting Angels Home Care in Mesa County. This article is an excerpt from “Taking Care of Mom & Dad,” available at Amazon.

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