3 Things to Consider When Asking: Should my aging parent move into my house?

Should my parent move into my house? I get this question a lot. Though I am an architect, here are 3 things I encourage people to consider before we even begin discussing their design or renovation.

What’s the reason for your parent moving in?

Perhaps your other parent has died and the widowed parent is lonely; maintaining a house can be an issue, as can health conditions that require you to visit often. Your parent may even live far away and you feel the need to check on them more frequently than before.

Answering this question in an explicit way – rather than letting the ramifications of such a move predominate your thoughts – will help you evaluate your home and determine whether it’s sufficiently equipped or requires modification. Are the spaces physically configured in the best way to accommodate the situation? Even if everyone gets along, it’s an adjustment and there will be emotional needs for space. You may have three bedrooms and your kids are out of the house, but it may still be a little too “cozy” in the current configuration. Keep in mind that every generation has a different routine.

How is the health of your parent? 

Will you need an additional caregiver, perhaps overnight or potentially, in the future, to also move in? Even if the house has plenty of space and everyone is reasonably healthy, consider that arthritis and vision changes are the most common conditions that affect people as they age, so there will be other needs. Lever handles instead of turn knobs may be necessary.  And even with good health, you’ll want additional lighting. Although stairs may not be a problem, is there sufficient lighting for easy navigation — whether natural or artificial, during the day and at night?  How comfortable and easy is it for your parent to go into the kitchen and make lunch? If mobility is an issue, consideration may also be given to getting in and out of the house. Your parent may still drive, but needs extra adjustments in safely getting to and from the car. If this is difficult and prevents him or her from getting out and maintaining a familiar routine, it may lead to depression and feeling housebound, affecting everyone in the home. It manifests in different ways for different people and often results in frustration on your part.

How easy is it for your parent to maintain his or her independence, social group, or “village”?

Would moving into your home allow your parent to remain connected in some way to the people and activities he or she enjoys? If not, this could be a concern, as your parent may become dependent on you for everything. Though you may want your parent with you, your parent may be happier if he or she can somehow stay connected with the old neighborhood, and preserve his or her sense of identity. If you’re unsure, sit down and talk about it – ask how your parent would feel about not being able to participate in that group they’ve been a part of forever. Maybe they’ll talk about how they’d miss seeing their friends regularly. On the other hand, maybe what they’d really miss is doing a particular hobby or being of service in the community. Depending on their response, are there similar activities in your area that you could suggest to help ease the transition? Whether designing a house or designing a new family arrangement, the same basic rule applies: start by listening to what is most important to everyone involved. It’s the best way to find the right solution to your unique situation.

If you are asking, “Should my parent move into my house?” these are some important things to consider when weighing the options. Failing to do so could make or break the arrangement, leading to unwanted stress and hard feelings.  Although these questions are more about making sure everyone has space, balance and attention to their needs and values, we also help people with the next steps. If you are ready to prepare your home for your parent to move in, we’d be delighted to have a free 30-minute consultation with you to determine whether we could be of assistance.

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Author: Lisa Bixler

Lisa Bixler of Houston based LKB Architecture, provides sustainable architectural and planning services. She has a passion for creating solutions in accessibility, senior living, and universal design/aging-in-place.