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Considerations Before Moving a Parent Into Your Home

My, it’s been awhile since we took my father in to live with us. It’s been almost three-and-a-half years, to be precise. After Dad died, in July of 2010, I unequivocally stated I’d never do that again. Move a parent in with me, that is. I loved my dad, but sheesh.

The invasion of our personal space, the constant noise and activity, the utter disruption of the finely woven fabric of our lives. It had been a lot to deal with.

Which doesn’t explain why I’ve been talking with my mom about her eventually moving into our house.

Now, granted, Mom is not Dad. Dad was very extroverted, chatty, and constantly at work on some project or another.

Mom, on the other hand, is much more introverted, quiet, likes to read, and enjoys having a daily routine. And that’s why my husband Lee and I have agreed Mom would be a much more agreeable roommate than Dad was.

Still, before you move a parent into your home, you should carefully consider several factors:

Does your parent really want to move in with you?
Mom and I have had several conversations about how she wants to be cared for when she becomes too frail or forgetful to care for herself. I feel very strongly people have a right to make their own decisions in these matters. Luckily, Mom and I are discussing this while she’s still in control of her faculties. If you wait, it may become impossible to talk about these matters because your parent may have distorted notions about her ability to care for herself.

And while you may believe it’s a given your parent would rather live with you than, say, live in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or use a companion caregiving service, you’d be dead wrong.

My father- and mother-in-law explicitly told us they never wanted to “burden” us with their care, so they’d made arrangements for in-home caregivers and, ultimately, hospice to care for them. Unless you’re forced to, don’t assume you know what your parents’ wishes are in this regard.
Do you really have the space?
My mom downsized from the family home to a large condo, but when she moves into my house she’ll have to downsize even more. That’s hard for her.

She wants to keep her own bed, the vanity table my dad made for her, her many bookcases, her father’s desk, her recliner, TV, stereo, and other things. We’ll find a way to cram all of that into this house, but it’ll be cozy.

Beyond having the physical square footage to hold your parent’s cherished belongings, you should ask yourself if you have enough space for everyone to have…space. As an introvert, I need plenty of space where I can be alone. Luckily, I can always hole up in the master bedroom. But if you have a small house, where moving an extra person in would cause everyone to feel like they’re on top of each other, you might reconsider your options.
Do your temperaments mesh?
Like I said, Dad was a whirling dervish at all hours of the day. Nearly every night, he’d wake us up several times by throwing on all the lights in order to make a trip to the bathroom or to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal. At 3:00 a.m. Temperamentally speaking, he and I were like oil and water, which is why the situation didn’t work well for me.

Only in retrospect could I see I’d underestimated this fundamental difference between Dad and me. I still would have moved Dad in, but I’d have given greater consideration to how I could maintain my privacy — and sanity — with him here.

I honestly believe inviting your parent to live with you is one of the most beautiful, caring gestures you can make. But don’t undertake the decision lightly, or it could become a disaster. And don’t feel guilty if you decide moving your parent in isn’t the best solution for you and your family. As always, put your own needs first because you can’t care for someone else if you don’t care for yourself first.


Elizabeth Hanes RN is an award-winning blogger and writer.  She writes about compassionate caregiving, The account she wrote (under a pseudonym) of caring for her father during the last year of his life won a 2010 Online Journalism Award in the “Best Online Commentary/Blogging” category. Her website is The Cheerful Caregiver at www.thecheerfulcaregiver.com.

By: Amy McCraken

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"Before you move your parent into your home, make sure you have enough physical space to accommodate all their cherished possessions and each personality."
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