As much as parents love their children, some parents prefer that their grown children fly the coop and don’t come back to live.
Having adult children move back in with you can be challenging and often requires that you establish firm boundaries and ground rules so both generations can live in peace under the same roof.
While much has been written about the boomerang generation, not much has been said about the reverse trend–parents moving in with their adult children thanks to an inadequate retirement or health problems.
If you foresee that there may be a day when your parents could potentially move in with you, it is important to begin preparing now, years before it may actually happen.
Here are some strategies to help keep the peace when parents move back:
1. Decide which adult child will have the parents move in.
If you are not an only child, discuss with your siblings who would be the best choice to have your parents move in and who will shoulder the financial burdens.
My cousin and her husband, Steve, have always been hard workers; Steve is a vice president in a large company, and he travels frequently for work. He knew he wouldn’t have time to care for his parents, so his sister, Jeanette, agreed that she would be better choice. Meanwhile, my cousin and Steve have agreed, since they have a large income and are quite frugal, that they would gladly provide Jeanette with the money to care for their parents. They decided this over 10 years ago, and just last year they reached the time when their mother had to move in with Jeanette.
Gregory French, president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys warns, “It’s not a decision to make quickly or in a crisis. Having good visits with your children doesn’t necessarily promise a good co-living arrangement” (AARP). If you are comfortable doing so, you may want to broach the topic with your parents long before any action is necessary so everyone is in agreement.
2. Consider buying a home to accommodate your parents.
If you are fairly certain your parent may need to move in with you eventually, you may want to buy a home to accommodate them.
I am now an only child, and I know that my mom probably does not have enough retirement to see her through if she lives a long life. My husband and I both take it as a given that she will eventually move in with us or that we will have to help support her financially.
When we buy our home, we will buy one that can easily be renovated or already has a separate space that could double as an in-law suite. Knowing this in advance will save us the cost of a large renovation when the time for her to move in actually occurs. John Graham, coauthor of Together Again: A Creative Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living states, “Some form of privacy is essential. You and your child’s family each need a place to retire to” (AARP).
3. Consider helping your parent pay for long-term care insurance.
Long-term care insurance is not cheap, and many seniors are reluctant to pay for it. Even Suze Orman mentioned that her mother did not pay for long-term care insurance because she thought it was a waste of money. Unfortunately, in that situation, the child is often left with the financial burden. Suze Orman paid for care for her elderly mother for years before she passed away. Of course, Orman had the money to do so, but not all of us do.
My mom is now 63, and my husband and I would like to split the price of long-term care insurance with her because if we don’t and she needs to enter a care facility at some point, the entire financial burden will fall to us.
4. Consider creating a mutually beneficial arrangement.
If your parents are still in good health but just low on retirement funding, consider developing a relationship that can benefit both parties.
If you work every day and don’t come home until 6 p.m., maybe your parents can be home when the kids return from school and drive them to sports practice or extracurricular activities. You will no longer have to hire a sitter, and you could pay your parents some of that money, if they will take it.
5. Think about signing a contract.
Signing a contract may seem formal and uncomfortable, but it can keep all three generations–the grandparents, parents and grandchildren, in agreement about rules of conduct and what is expected from each party. This may actually be a way to make the household run more smoothly as you all adjust to living under the same roof.
Americans are independent, and having parents move in with their adult children can be challenging for both parties.
However, there can be real financial and relational benefits.
My grandparents lived next door to us in a trailer 6 months of the year for 25 years until my grandpa got very sick, and I cherish the time we had together. I was blessed to be much closer to them both physically and emotionally than many of my other cousins.