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Articles for Baby Boomers

When Your Parent Moves In

Medical Educator Offers Tips for an Easy and Harmonious Living Arrangement

by David Horgan

Before moving a parent in and making a life altering change to the family harmony, there are many things to consider. Inviting an elderly parent to move in has far reaching implications on every aspect of your life, from financial impact to changing family dynamics, from role re-assignment to safety issues, from power struggles to eroding privacy.

 Be Open: Have a clear and open discussion with your family, siblings, spouse, kids, and ultimately your parent, to decide if making the move is the right decision for all parties involved. Discuss:

a. The pros and cons
b. The different ways this move will effect the family
c. The ways each family member’s routines may be disrupted.
d. Expectations that may differ from “the way things have always been”
e. Any possible monetary issues that could arrive
f. Compromises that each family member will have to make

 Medical Management: An elderly parent is apt to have a litany of doctor appointments, medication, and needs.

a. With the help of medical and geriatric care professionals, assess your parent’s medical needs and gain a clear understanding of how those needs will affect you and your family.
b. Gather all possible medical resources, containing both specific people and organizations, to minimize frustrations as well as possible mistakes.
c. Use your support network to create and implement a plan as well as back-up plans.

 Moving Day: Moving is stressful under any circumstance. Moving in an aging parent entails a permanent lifestyle change and one that may be met with resistance, which can make it even more difficult. Plan for every detail upfront to minimize the potential strife.

a. Ready yourself for volatile emotions and flaring tempers from all parties.
b. Use your utmost compassion and support when you decide what stays and what goes.
c. The move may not have been a parent’s first choice. Avoid sweeping decisions, such as throwing away Grandma’s 50 year-old collection of National Geographics, without discussing it with her first.
d. Decide ahead of time on furniture placement.
e. Make a disbursement plan for who gets items that cannot fit into your house. (Storage, give away, other siblings.)

House Rules: Your parent is used to running the household with his/her own rules. Everyone must openly acknowledge that each family member must compromise to make the new living arrangement successful. It is important to create a plan that is respectful to all parties, so your parent doesn’t feel slighted and uncomfortable as the “newcomer” to your home. You also want to make sure that you and your spouse do not feel like outsiders. Decide on:

a. Chores
b. Who waters the plants and feeds the cat etc.
c. Who helps and who doesn’t help in the kitchen
d. How you like laundry done
e. Bathroom etiquette
f. What you make for dinner and what time
g. When are lights out, and television off

About the Author

David Horgan is an award-winning medical educator, filmmaker and director who shares his firsthand account of what to do, what not to do, and what can happen (the good and the bad) in his book When Your Parent Moves In. Mr. Horgan is also Media Director for Project-13, a non-profit drop out prevention program in Holyoke, Ma that reaches inner-city kids through film and music production as well as practical work experience.

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