Moving an aging parent into your home isn't easy

  • In healthy, cooperative families, it is possible to care for an aging parent without turning life upside down.

    In healthy, cooperative families, it is possible to care for an aging parent without turning life upside down. Stock Photo

 
By Teri Dreher
Posted10/4/2020 7:00 AM

As people live longer, more adult children are left to assume responsibility for their elderly parents. Often, they decide the best option is to move Mom or Dad into their home.

While this may be the best course of action from a financial standpoint, it's easy to underestimate its logistical and emotional toll. This is not a decision to enter into lightly.

 

If you find yourself in this position, here are three key factors to consider first.

What kind of care does your parent need?

… versus what can you provide? Often, families don't reach this point until a parent's health problem has surfaced, such as an accident or memory loss. Whatever your parent's health limitations, do you have the time and fortitude to provide what they need, not just today but as their health declines? Are you comfortable, say, helping with bathing and bathroom activities? Can you enlist support from a spouse or sibling?

Sometimes, the answer is to offload some care to a part-time home health aide. Others, it's to make this a transitional move, knowing you'll move your parent to a nursing facility when things reach a certain point.

What are the financial implications?

According to Genworth's most recent Cost of Care survey for Illinois, nursing home care now costs more than $71,000 per year; assisted living costs in excess of $50,000. While you won't spend anything like that in your home, the AARP has found that caregivers spend more than $7,400 a year out of pocket caring for their loved one.

In addition, more than half of working caregivers will need to take time off, cutback on hours, or ultimately quit altogether. This translates to less income, less job security and fewer employee benefits -- not to mention lower Social Security benefits upon retirement. It's important to face this reality up front. Does your parent bring any assets to the equation? Are there siblings who are willing to pitch in financially? How can you make this most affordable?

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What are the emotional implications?

Caregiving can be exhausting and isolating. It can spark a range of difficult emotions -- from sadness at watching your parent decline to anger over long-unresolved family issues. Other relationships often suffer. Caregivers not only report increased anxiety, but are twice as likely to suffer from depression than the general population.

If you're going to take this on, it's important to line up your support team (aides, care managers, siblings and other family members) and create a plan for self-care and stress management.

In summary, moving your elderly parent into your home should not be a slam-dunk decision. Hold some family meetings and talk things out. Consider every option and possible outcome. In loving, healthy, cooperative families, it is possible to care for an aging parent without turning life upside down.

But even then, it isn't easy.

• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, she recently founded Seniors Alone Guardianship & Advocacy Services (SeniorsAlone.org), a not-for-profit organization that serves the area's senior orphans. She also is the founder of NShore Patient Advocates, www.northshorern.com.

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