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Moving in with children

Shannon Guignard didn't hesitate when her parents asked to move in with her because they no longer felt safe in their neighborhood.

"I want them be happy in their last years," said Guignard, "so I can sacrifice."

Guignard's parents now live with her, her husband, Roger and her 20-year-old son, Cortney, in their Mesquite, Texas, home -- a situation that is becoming more commonplace.

"What we're seeing is the demise of the notion of the nuclear family in favor of the extended family," said John L. Graham, co-author of "Together Again: A Creative Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living."

Since 1990, the number of multigenerational households has grown about 40 percent, said Graham, professor emeritus of marketing and international business at the University of California at Irvine.

"There are now some 50 million Americans -- greater than 16 percent -- living in such households around the country," he said. "With life expectancies increasing, baby boomers retiring and pension funds failing, these numbers will only continue to accelerate."

This shift raises financial implications that must be considered before you make room in your home for mom and dad.

>Your parents' needs

Assess what your parents' needs really are.

"Get a good idea of where your parent is functioning now," Goyer said. "What kind of needs do they have, at what level are they functioning? A lot of times, the adult children don't really have a clear picture of what their parents' needs are. They may get flickers of something's not quite good here."

You can get an accurate picture by hiring a geriatric care manager to conduct an assessment.

>Involve the family

It's critical that all family members be included in the discussion, and it's one of the biggest hurdles a family must overcome.

"All siblings should be involved in the process because everybody may need to chip in and help out in order to avoid one party not feeling that they're carrying all the load," Ross said.

If other family members are unable or unwilling to help, you may need to hire someone to help.

Know what kind of health insurance your parents have and what it covers.

"You want to know their sources of income," Goyer said. "Are you going to need to supplement their income, pay the bills?"

>Prepare yourself

Be prepared for the impact this move will have on your lifestyle.

"Life is about to change dramatically, especially if they move into the house," said Suzanne Cobb, director of the Guardianship and Money Management Program at the Senior Source.

A critical issue to address is how taking in your parents would affect the personal space of everyone in the household.

"It's tight sometimes, and it kind of invades your privacy, and you have to think about if you're willing to deal with all of that," Guignard said.

>Who pays for what?

Figure out whether mom and dad will contribute financially to the household and, if so, how much.

"They need to assess what realistically the elderly parents will be able to contribute financially to the family," Ross said. "They may be already expending all their meager Social Security on their medications and other expenses and not be able to contribute as much. You want to work out who's going to pay for what."

>Don't lose perspective

It may be tough to reconcile this with your desire to help your parents, but keep things in perspective and don't jeopardize your retirement.

"It's a really tough situation to be in. Do the best that you can not to completely put your retirement planning aside."