Preparing to have an aging parent move in

Jun 27, 2014

Recent advances in medicine are causing people to live longer. Couple that with the economically stressful times and you often find families deciding to have aging parents move into their adult child's home. Whether it's for financial reasons or to maximize caregiving... There can be many bumps along the road. This week on WRVO's health and wellness show "Take Care," costs Lorraine Rapp and Linda Lowen, speak with David Horgan, medical educator and author, about his personal experiences with elder care and the best way to welcome mom or dad into your home. Horgan co-authored the book "When Your Parent Moves In: Every Adult Child's Guide to Living With an Aging Parent" with Shira Block.

Lorraine Rapp: If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently, and what are you advising others to do before taking such an important life changing step?

David Horgan:  This is a decision that I made very quickly, and what I’ve realized now and over the years is you don’t want to do something like this as a snap decision.  This is something you really have to think through.  There’s so much that’s involved.  I was not prepared for everything that came our way.  If you move mom or dad in and don’t have discussions and don’t make a plan [and] let it just happen, it’s like filming a movie without a script.  It’s going to be chaos.  But I also want to say I don’t want this to all be negative.  If you make a plan, if you have the conversations up front and define your boundaries, it can be a very pleasant and very productive addition to your life.

Linda Lowen: How do you maintain family harmony and yet clearly indicate that the power has shifted [and] that there needs to be boundaries that are set without stepping on toes or starting everybody off on the wrong foot?

David Horgan: Expect the unexpected.  You need to be prepared for the role reversal.  You need to be prepared for the things that are going to happen so that you don’t blow up so you don’t have an incident that you can’t take back.  I got to a point with my mother-in-law where I got past the superficial relationship and we became really good friends.  The only way that this works is if you find a way to have a real relationship with mom or dad and get rid of those old roles.

Lorraine Rapp: In your research, what are some of the outside resources that prove to be most helpful in these situations?

David Horgan: If mom or dad are moving in, getting their finances together is the first and most important thing.  Also, a lot of people say “well geez I’m not going to be home all the time or what if I go on vacation? Who’s going to take care of mom or dad while we’re gone?”  You want to look into that.  Certainly there are services [and] people you can pay hourly, but the one thing a lot of people miss is that there may be members of your own family who are actually out looking for employment while you’re struggling trying to figure out who’s going to watch mom or dad.  One thing that’s worked out very well is having family members come in and have them get compensated instead of paying an outside professional.  So there’s a lot of resources that you might not think about.  You want to get creative with your solutions. 

More of this interview can be heard on "Take Care," WRVO's health and wellness show Sunday at 6:30p.m. Support for this story comes from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.