Making the Decision to Share Your Home
Part 1 of a 2-Part Series
As your parent or other loved one grows older, you may become concerned about the person’s ability to continue to live on their own. Safety hazards in the home, inability to drive, a changing neighborhood, declining health, loneliness, or other factors may cause your loved one, and you, to consider other options. As one of those options, you may want to offer to share your own family home.
Sharing your home can be a delightful, enriching experience for everyone involved, or it can become a very difficult situation, with everyone diminished by the experience. Living in a multigenerational household can be wonderful, but is not for everyone. It is better to say “no” and work toward another more satisfactory living alternative, than to struggle with a situation that simply doesn’t fit the person’s or your needs and limitations.
Sharing your home will have an impact on everyone in the household—you, a spouse, children, other persons living in the household, and, of course, the older person you’ll be caring for. Everyone will have to make adjustments and be a part of making the newly configured household work smoothly. Therefore, everyone needs to be a part of the decision-making process. Together, the family must determine whether this will be a good idea or not. (In this instance, the word “family” includes everyone living with you now whose lives will be affected by this decision.)
Consider Existing Household Challenges
If your family currently has its own significant problems with health, family relations, or other stressful situations, adding another person to the household may make things harder, no matter how much you and your family love that person. You need to decide as a group whether or not you have the emotional energy to take in another person. Of course you will not be able to anticipate all that the future may hold, but careful thinking and planning before you commit yourself may help you to avoid an awkward or unworkable situation.
As you check out your ability and willingness to have your loved one live with you, they should be going through a similar evaluation process. This is not a decision to be made in haste. Both you and your older relative should understand and be able to articulate in advance why you think this would be a mutually beneficial arrangement, what you expect from each other, and what you expect from yourselves. In that way, if you decide to live together, each of you knows the other’s feelings.
Begin the decision-making process by considering these important factors:
Family Stability and Attitude
Ask yourself and other family members these questions:
- Is your spouse (or other adult living in the home) willing to have your loved one living in your home?
- How strong is your marriage or other primary relationship?
- If you have children living at home, how are they doing generally? Do they enjoy this person? What accommodations will they be expected to make in a homesharing arrangement? What benefits will they gain?
- How well do you get along with this person? Is the prospect of having him or her in your home for several years a pleasant and realistic one?
- Have you resolved any old family grievances and disagreements, or will they resurface and have to be dealt with?
- Can you talk with the person about problems that come up between you without undue tension? Do you find it easy to talk with this person?
- What kinds of things do you disagree about? Will those disagreements be a source of tension in the household?
- Do you enjoy spending time with your loved one? Does he/she enjoy time spent with you and your family?
- Do you or your loved one have any habits that are unacceptable to each other, such as smoking or drinking?
- How strongly does the person want to come to live with you? Is this option a last resort or a first choice?
- How much work will having a new household member add to the household tasks? Who will do that additional work? How do other family members feel about sharing the extra work load?
- What kinds of personal care needs (for example, assistance in dressing, bathing, or grooming) does the person have? How do you and other family members feel about performing those needed services? How does the person feel about receiving that kind of personal help from family? What support services will be available?
- What is your reason for inviting your loved one to live with you? What is your unique mix of personal, family, historical, and financial reasons?
These are difficult questions to answer, for everyone involved. There are no standard right answers which will assure a successful match. Be aware also that there are no ideal solutions. In answering the above questions, one or more of them will normally seem problematic. The purpose of such questions is not to scare you off, but to help you anticipate problems in advance of a difficult situation.
Family dynamics aren’t the only factor to consider in making this important decision. In the May 2007 issue of Caring Right at Home, we’ll take a look at more questions to consider in making the decision to share your home with your loved one: Are your home and neighborhood appropriate for the person’s needs? What financial questions need to be answered? How might lifestyle issues impact the success of the arrangement? And what are some great ways to help make it work?
Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care and assistance services.