When older people are living alone, there may be concerns
about their physical well-being, emotional well-being, or
both. Particularly in situations where they are having health
problems or do not live close by, a son or daughter may
invite them to move in.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of such an offer,
ask yourself the following questions and take time to
honestly and thoroughly answer each one before making a
What kind of relationship do you and your son or daughter
have? How well do you get along with others in the household?
Personality clashes are sure to be magnified when you are
living under the same roof.
If you need assistance, are you comfortable with the idea of
Your needs and expectations
Would the move uproot you from important relationships and
community connections such as supportive longtime neighbors,
a church congregation or seniors' clubs?
If you have a pet, can it be accommodated? If your child has
pets, are you comfortable around them?
If you have a chronic illness, how are your needs likely to
change? Would you expect your family to provide whatever help
you may require? If so, are they willing and able to help?
Your family's needs and expectations
Would you be expected to contribute to the household in
practical ways, such as cooking meals or providing child
If you require assistance, would your child or other
household members be able to cope with the ongoing physical,
mental and emotional demands of caregiving? Would they have
enough time to devote to the rest of their family - spouse,
children, grandchildren, other senior relatives? Would they
still have time for themselves - for exercise, hobbies,
volunteer work or whatever else is important to them?
Do you and your son or daughter have similar lifestyles and
values? If not, are differences likely to be an ongoing
source of tension?
If you require care, how might your needs affect your child's
work life, social life, vacation plans and other pursuits? Is
he or she prepared to make adjustments?
Would you be within walking distance of a convenience store,
pharmacy or bank? Where is the nearest Catholic church? Would
you be close to public transit routes? Easy access to some
amenities would maximize your independence - a win-win
Would friends and former neighbors be able to visit
frequently? Consider the distance they would have to travel
to get to your new location and what type of transportation
is available to them.
If your child lives in a different area, how easily could you
link with needed medical supports such as a new primary care
What kinds of community support services are available to
assist in meeting your needs, either now or in the future?
Find out about accessible transportation services, seniors'
recreation centers and home health care services.
Finances and home setup
How much would you be expected to contribute toward fixed and
variable household expenses?
Do you have savings or insurance that would cover the cost of
any needed medical equipment or health care services? If not,
would your family be prepared to pay for them?
Is there sufficient space in the home to meet everyone's
needs for privacy? Would you have separate quarters?
How accessible is the home? For example, are there steps to
get inside, does it have multiple levels, can doorways
accommodate walker or wheelchair passage? If adaptations
would need to be made, what is the estimated cost and who
would pay it?
Before making any decisions, explore alternatives: arranging
home health care services and other home supports such as
meals on wheels; obtaining live-in help; doing home
renovations; and moving to a condominium, seniors' apartment
complex or assisted living facility. Find out if any of these
options are appropriate and affordable.
If you decide to move into your son or daughter's home,
consider a six-month trial period with a clear understanding
that other options will be pursued if you, your child or
other household members feel it's not working out and issues
can't be resolved.
Keep in mind that such a plan involves changes in family
dynamics and household routines that will affect daily
living. Therefore you need to allow plenty of time for
everyone involved to adjust.
There are bound to be some difficulties, but these usually
can be worked through if you are committed to making the new
Petsche is a clinical social worker and a freelance writer
specializing in family life and eldercare issues.