When Your Aging Parent Moves into Your Home
A new trend is Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity, or ECHO housing. ECHO homes are modular units that can be moved onto your property for as long as they're needed. Mom lives in the ECHO home, in close proximity to you and your assistance. When the additional housing is no longer needed, it can be removed. Find out more about ECHO housing using an internet search engine or your local phone book.
Having an elderly parent move into your home bears some similarities to bringing a baby home from the hospital. No matter how you look at it, it's going to mean extra work and responsibilities. And it's going to cost money.
Chances are, before Mom moves in, you'll need to make at least some minor adjustments to your house. Perhaps you'll need to install handrails on stairways that don't have any, or remove slippery carpet from the steps. You may have to install a ramp to accommodate Mom's wheelchair, or replace a small shower with a larger one in which there's room for Mom to sit down.
These kinds of changes to your home probably won't put you on the road to bankruptcy, but what happens if you need to renovate an attic or basement, or put on an addition in order to make your house livable with an extra person?
If you're going to spend a lot of money to make your house suitable for Mom, and she's got the means to help, you may ask her to pitch in to help pay for the renovations. If she doesn't have the money to do so, however, you'll need to carefully assess your financial situation and determine whether or not it makes sense to spend big bucks.
Handling It Emotionally
Don't Go There
If you know in your heart that having Mom come to live with you is sure to end up badly, don't invite her anyway, just to ease your conscience or make her happy. You'll both be better off in the long run if you make an acceptable, alternative arrangement.
As difficult as the financial and practical aspects of having an aging parent move into your home may be, the emotional matters are likely to be even harder.
Watching a parent who once was strong and vibrant struggle to just walk down the hallway or get up from a chair is extremely difficult.
Dealing every day with someone who might be cranky and miserable is draining and wearing. You should realize that care-giving is difficult, and by having your parent move into your home, you may be stepping into an always-on-duty type of situation.
If you decide to invite Mom to move in with you, be sure you have backup. Ask siblings to help out, either by taking Mom to their homes sometimes, or by staying with her at your house to give you a break. If you don't have siblings or other close family members, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (check the Blue Pages of your phone book) for referrals to individuals or agencies that provide respite care.
More on: Family Finances
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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