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Things to consider before your older loved one moves in with you

Last Updated at November 19th 2021
When your parent or older loved one starts to struggle living at home by themselves, it can be difficult to navigate aged care options, especially if the older person doesn't want to access aged care.

Key points:

  • Deciding to live together should be a joint decision between the older loved one, the carer and their family

  • Having your parent or older loved one live with you can reduce difficulties with providing care from a distance and give you peace of mind that they are safe

  • Set boundaries with other family members including expectations around what support and assistance they should be helping with

Older person cooking with their adult daughter
When an older person and their family decide to live together, it can be a big change to everyone's lifestyle. [Source: Shutterstock]

Sometimes families decide that the best option is for their older parents to move in to live with them rather than transition them into a nursing home.

While this can be a great way to ensure that your parent or older loved one is safe and cared for, it can raise a number of new responsibilities to take on and boundaries to be set.

Anne Muldowney, Aged Care Policy Adviser from Carers Australia, says it's important that people don't rush a big decision like this and have a frank conversation with their parent/s and extended family about what option is best, whether that be moving in with their family or moving into aged care.

Moving in with your adult children

There can be a number of reasons why it may be beneficial for a parent to move into their adult children's home.

Ms Muldowney says a common situation that crops up is when a parent is requiring more help with the day to day things, which can make family worry about their safety, however, it should be up to their mum or dad to decide where they want to live.

"While this can be frustrating and perhaps frightening, older family members have the right to make their own decisions if they have the capacity to do so. This includes the decision about where to live, even if there are some risks involved," says Ms Muldowney.

"Carers who are unsure about whether their older family member can make their own decisions about living arrangements can speak to their GP about organising an assessment. People with dementia are often still able to make these decisions with support."

Some reasons why a parent and carer decide to live together can include:

  • Concerns about the person living well and safely in their own home

  • Recently widowed, lonely or socially isolated

  • Living in unsafe, costly or insecure housing

  • Their first language is not English and they rely on adult children for communication support

  • Cultural and religious obligations around care and support for an older parent

  • Caring from a distance has become challenging, like time commitments or travel

  • Residential aged care has been recommended but the older person doesn't want to move into a nursing home

  • Promises were made early in life about 'not putting them in a home'

Ms Muldowney adds that many families want to provide extra care to their mum or dad if they have had a close relationship in the past.

It's important that your parent also has a say into where they live, whether that's moving in with you, a nursing home, or if they want to put other supports in place and continue living in their own home.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers found the most common reason primary carers took on the caring role was due to a sense of family responsibility (66.9 percent).

Positives of living with family

The aged care system can be complex and many families are unaware of what formal aged care supports are available to help their mum or dad stay at home for longer. 

Some families may feel they can provide better quality care or more personalised support than an unfamiliar provider, person, or facility.

If your situation allows it, families find living with their parent in their home allows for more companionship and support.

It can also make caring responsibilities a lot easier rather than coordinating support to your elderly parent/s from a distance.

Some other benefits include:

  • Less travel

  • The ability to provide more care and support

  • Can monitor your parent/s more closely, reducing your stress and worry about their safety

  • Develop a closer relationship with your mum or dad

  • Adding regular quality to their life, like playing music, spending time together as a family, and updating scrapbooks or photo albums

  • Complement existing formal and informal care in place

  • Assist the parent/s to maintain their independence

  • Reduce some expenses by living together

Carer struggles

Before a parent and family make the decision to live together, you need to think about the situation carefully.

Ms Muldowney says, "Look at the benefits for you and your older family member - and what you will both be losing or needing to compromise.

"Many older people continue to live at home alone - often with a range of assistance from family, friends and formal home care and support services."

Some carers report:

  • Feeling 'on duty' all the time, as your life could revolve around your caring responsibilities

  • Losing their sense of being an independent adult

  • Losing their sense of identity

  • Feeling increased expectations from their parent/s and others

  • A decreased social life and lost friendships

  • Decreased opportunities in general, like work or travel

Setting boundaries and making decisions

Before moving in together, you should be talking openly with your parent/s about the difficulties they are facing and how you can overcome them, whether that means formal aged care, moving into a nursing home, or moving in with you.

Be upfront and honest with your other family members and friends about the situation and ask for advice, help and support. Sometimes it can be a good idea to hear other people's experiences or get an outside perspective.

If you have brothers and sisters, it can be a good idea to organise a family meeting to see how you can overcome these challenges as a family. There are many alternative living options and support available that may be able to assist you before deciding to move your older parent/s in with you.

If you do decide that the best option is to live together, you need to make it clear with the rest of the family that you do expect help and support in the care of your older parent/s. Even delegate specific tasks, including when and how regularly.

Getting an idea of the level of commitment each family member is willing to make and if they can increase that care in the future if the needs arise can also be helpful.

You should also make your parent aware of when you need to organise formal home care or regular respite care services occasionally or on a more regular basis.

The most important thing to remember is that it doesn't have to be a permanent decision. If caring for your parent goes beyond your ability to care for them, then you can look at other options to ensure their care and support is in place, whether that is through a Home Care Package or moving into a nursing home.

Did you move your older loved one in with you? How did you manage that big change? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

How to have “the home care talk” with your parents
Benefits of short term respite care
Informal home care from family and friends
Respite: A break for both carer and loved one

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