5 Tips for Living with an Elderly Parent

Moving a parent in with you, or moving in with a parent, is as big of a deal as moving your parent to senior living; the challenges are just different. Here are five tips for making the arrangement work.

1. Remember who the adult is.

 You both are! Your parents may be living under your roof, but don’t treat them like children. You may be living with your parents, maybe you even moved back to the house, perhaps even the bedroom, where you grew up, but you are not a child anymore. You don’t need permission to stay out all night – and neither do they. Before the move, talk about the boundaries each of you want to set. Will you check in when you are running late? Will you tell each other where you are going, when you are leaving, and when you’ll be home? Will you cook together or take turns? How will they interact with your children? Does your parent have permission to reprimand your child? How about spoiling them?

2. Build in daughter time.

If your parent needs assistance with dressing, bathing and eating or if you are managing their medication and handling other medical tasks, try to set aside some time each week to be a daughter – not just a nurse. Maybe there’s a television show you watch together every week, or you plan a weekly outing, or carve out 20 minutes every morning just to talk. It can be very difficult to find that extra time but preserving your relationship will be worth it.

3. Carve out private space and time.

Just because you’re cohabitating doesn’t mean you have to do everything together. Designate an area of the house where you can each go for privacy. Every working daughter I know who lives with a parent tells me this is key. Designate your own quiet time too. Don’t be afraid to tell your parent that your morning coffee time is sacred or you don’t want company watching The Late Show. And don’t be offended if they tell you the same. Explain upfront that there may be times you need to work at home – joining conference calls or trying to meet deadlines – and when that happens you can only be interrupted for true emergencies. And pro tip from every working daughter I know who lives with a parent: have separate bathrooms if possible.

4. Discuss the finances.

Determine if, and how, you will share expenses. Will you each contribute to grocery and utility bills? Will you live in your parents’ home rent free in exchange for your care? Will your arrangement impact their will in any way? Moving in together is a great time to consult an elder law attorney. You will want to understand how to protect each of your assets and how to execute whatever agreement you come up with.

5. Be open to changes.

No one gets younger. Your parents may be fairly independent when they move in but require more care and attention over time. Be prepared to rethink your agreements and arrangements as they age.

The bottom line is this: only you and your siblings, if they are involved in your parents’ care, your partner if you have one, and the person you care for, with input from health professionals and senior care specialists, can determine what is best for your family. Remember, as with parenting, there is no one, right answer. The best decisions and outcomes will stem from a clear head, an open heart, and a guilt-free conscience. And you should never feel guilty for doing your best – even when your best is imperfect.

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