Making room when mom moves in

Multigenerational households are becoming more common in today's economy. The move can bring rewards as well as stresses. Besides saving money and keeping an aging loved one safe, a blended household can forge closer bonds between the generations. But moving a parent in with you will most likely lead to changes in the family dynamic. If you and your mom have explored other available housing options, and have decided that it is best for her to live with you, then pre-planning, clear boundaries and open communication will help preserve harmony even under difficult circumstances.

You can't treat your parent like a house guest, always putting on 'company manners.' At the same time, you have to preserve the core family's unity while not making your parent feel useless or invisible. It's a delicate balancing act, but having those hard conversations as soon as problems arise will help.

In a multigenerational household, it can often be difficult to know who is in charge. An aging parent may feel a real sense of loss of independence and autonomy. That sense of loss may manifest itself in odd ways, such as resistance or controlling behavior around food or housekeeping routines. Sometimes a once authoritative parent may become more dependent. You also may have less time for your spouse and for yourself, and need your children to take on more household responsibilities, including care of their grandparent.

While there are many things to consider, here are five tips to creating boundaries with multiple generations sharing the same home:

1. Sharing the bills

More parents are moving in with their children to combine households and cut down on costs. Figure out who will do the cooking, shopping, laundry, household chores and child care, and decide how expenses will be shared as a family.

2. Raising the (grand) kids

Reliable day care often claims a large chunk of a working parent's budget. Live-in grandparents sometimes share child-care responsibilities, but there is also a high potential for conflict over parenting strategies. You may need to have a respectful discussion with your parent if their parenting style differs radically from yours.  

3. Finding your space

Cramped living spaces can lead to problems. It's really important that you still have your own space that is just yours.. A home may require special adaptations to make it safe. Many of these changes are inexpensive but need planning to implement. Home health agencies and/or area agencies on aging may have the resources to do a home assessment in terms of home modifications, and safe lift/transfer techniques that are recommended to better assist your parent.

4. Caring for elders

Adult children sometimes have their parents move in to avoid a nursing home. It may be necessary to adjust the family schedule so that someone is always home when you can't have a paid caregiver. You will want to make sure there is enough coverage so that no family member has to be on call 24/7.  Be careful about sacrificing your own needs, because that often leads to resentment and burnout. Here are some tips we previously shared on how caregivers can avoid burnout.

Before making the big move, consider moving in with your parent for a week or two to make sure you can manage his or her care on your own. Home health care aides can help relieve over-taxed caregivers, but some aging parents resist outside help.

5. Interacting with one another

Before a relative moves in, it is also a good idea to bring up what subjects will be taboo, perhaps politics or dating lives. Each generation should also maintain an individual social life. If your mom does not have a social network, help her create one so that she is not totally dependent on you.  Peers with similar interests can be found through religious associations, community centers and volunteer organizations.

Despite the ups and downs, welcoming an aging loved one into your home can have unexpected benefits. While there is a high potential for conflict, there is a good potential for increased closeness and precious memories.  

Have you recently had a parent move in with you and your family? Have you discovered strategies to ease the process for everyone involved? Please leave a comment below! For more resources for family caregivers, visit our website at

Next post: Blended households may require an attorney's assistance to anticipate problems, mediate family disputes and prepare written agreements, particularly when money is involved. In our next post in February, we will guide you through some of the financial and legal considerations of a move.

Reflections from your editor, Cindy Sher, on people living their Jewish lives each day. ... Read More

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