While we might hear more about the “boomerang generation” – adult children moving back home to live with mom and dad – the opposite situation is actually on the rise. Aging parents moving in with their kids is becoming more common. This living situation, sometimes called multigenerational living, is on the rise in the U.S. About 14 percent of adults who share a home with another adult are parents who have moved in with children. This is up from only seven percent about 20 years ago.
While multigenerational living is more common in other countries like Japan, studies suggest that this living situation can help healthy people live longer. However, if you’re thinking about moving an aging parent in with you, there is a lot to consider. While your first instinct might be to open your home to them, you need to think with your head as well as with your heart. There are pros and cons to multigenerational living, and everyone’s situation is different.
Pro: You’re Close By in Case of Emergencies
If your parent has been living alone, you’ve probably been worried about their safety, and have been checking up on them often. So if your parent falls or has another medical emergency while living with you, you’ll know about it and be able to get them help quickly.
Con: You’re a Little Too Close
Being with someone, in the same house, 24 hours a day takes some getting used to. Some families can help this situation by doing some remodeling. Adding a suite with a separate bathroom (and maybe even a kitchenette and living room) can give your parent more privacy and autonomy. However, research shows that multigenerational living can help reduce stress, ease loneliness, and “enhance intellectual sharing,” according to an article published in the social science journal SSM-Population Health.
Pro: You Can Monitor Medication, Doctor Visits, and Nutrition
If you’re concerned that your parent hasn’t been taking their medication, has missed doctor’s appointments, or just isn’t eating right, you can be there to make sure they’re taking care of themselves. Instead of checking the fridge to make sure they’re eating healthy meals, you can eat together as a family.
Con: Your Parent Is Taking Orders From Their Child
When an aging parent moves in, the family structure changes. Your parent isn’t the head of the household anymore. Your well-meaning reminders to take medications and accompanying them to doctor’s visits may seem overbearing to a parent who’s used to living on their own. Psychotherapist Shira Block, author of When Your Parent Moves In: Every Adult Child’s Guide to Living with an Aging Parent, reminds us that aging parents who have been living alone aren’t used to being told what to do. Respect this, and let your parent keep their own boundaries and make their own decisions, as long as they are able to.
Pro: The Family Isn’t Financing Two Households
Consolidating your households can make economic sense. Your family, as a whole, isn’t paying two sets of household bills anymore, and you may even be saving money by not traveling to check in on your parent all the time. If your parent’s health has been declining, you may have been paying for some type of in-home care, another bill that can be dismissed.
Con: You’re Now Financing a Larger Household
Your budget will probably feel the cost of the new resident. This may include remodeling costs. That might include retrofitting your bathroom with handrails and other safety equipment, or adding an accessible shower. You may notice an increase in food costs or utilities. Talk about these costs with your parent. Come to an agreement about how much your parent will contribute to the household expenses.
Finally, keep in mind that nothing is permanent. If having your parent living with you doesn’t work out, you can come up with another solution. And remember, even though your parent lives with you, you’re not required to take on all of the care yourself. Adina Mahalli, mental health consultant and family care specialist, lists options like hiring health aides. Or you could take a parent to day programs. Eventually, medical issues like dementia, incontinence, or immobility may make it impossible for your parent to stay with you. At that point, you can reassess the living situation and consider a solution like a nursing home or assisted living.