Moving in with Mom/Having Mom Move In with You

My parents thought it was inevitable. When my grandmother could no longer live by herself, they moved her into their home. My dad as the eldest son felt it was his responsibility to make a place for her. They never thought that their actions were remarkable. Also they never chose to talk the decision through with my grandmother. My sister and I stood on the sidelines watching the pressure mount while important issues went undiscussed.

Everything old is new again. Largely for economic reasons, the number of multigenerational households has been increasing in the U.S. for the past few years. Whether the decision is made because of care needs or economic needs, open discussion and sharing helps make this decision workable for all.

Talking honestly about your arrangement is critical to making things work. Before you make the decision to have an aging family member move in with you or decide to move in with an aging family member, here are some questions to consider:

What do I anticipate will be the challenges of living together?

What discussion and/or agreements are needed to address these challenges?

What do I anticipate will be the pleasures or gains of living together?

How will we resolve problems that come up? (Consider establishing regular meetings to discuss how things are going.)

What is the financial arrangement? (How will everyone who is living together share in paying bills and other expenses? How will other family members who are not part of the living arrangement be kept in the loop about financial decisions?)

What are everyone’s expectations for spending time together? (How much time will be spent mutually socializing and how much time will be spent socializing outside the family? If one of you is moving to a new community, how will that person be supported in building a local social network?)

What is our exit strategy? When and how will we know that it is time to discuss another solution to meet everyone’s needs?

I recently told a client “you won’t know until you try it” when considering whether it is a good choice to have her mother move in. Thinking through these questions and discussing them with family members is the groundwork for making a good decision and having a successful shared household.

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