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   The Live-In Senior


Anyone who is charged with the task of caring for an aging parent, particularly the only surviving aging parent, faces a tough decision at some time in the time of their caregiver years. And that decision is whether to have the senior move in with you. 

When that idea first comes to mind, you can probably think of more negatives than positives. It really goes against your orientation since you moved out of your parentís home as a youth. Since then your entire goal has been to live separately from your parents, not to integrate them back into your daily family life again. And if, by chance, you didn't get along all that well with your parents up to now, not a whole lot will have changed because of their advanced senior status.

How seriously you consider this idea depends on your living situation as well. If you are unmarried, separated or divorced, you may have the space in your home and the extra time to balance the two households. In that situation, you could combine your homes and save considerable money. You would not have to feel bad using a little of your parentís retirement or Social Security money to pay the mortgage since you would be saving them so much. And who knows, it might be nice to have the company.

If you have a spouse and children, however, the decision gets a little more complicated. If the fact that you are even considering letting grandma or grandpa move in with you leaks to the kids, they will probably be extremely enthusiastic about the idea. After all, they love their grandparents and having them live here seems so ideal. But children are not aware of the additional stress having Grandma move in might cause.

Additional positives about the idea of letting Grandma live in your home is that you would be there at all times to help with her medications or to jump to her aid in the event of a sudden medical problem. The worry about your parent weighs heavily on you as primary caregiver because the last thing you want is for something to happen to them and you were not there to help. Having mom or dad in your home would eliminate those many car trips to their house or apartment as well. You could include the food preparation in with what you do for your family and in most ways, they might just blend in.

But when considering the big question of ďLive-In SeniorsĒ most experts in caring for the elderly advise heavily against letting them live with you if it can be in any way avoided. For one thing, parents will be parents. Grandma or Grandpa may not be able to resist getting in the middle of child discipline situations or being nosey about marital spats or issues that come up, especially with teenage children.

Teenagers are protective enough with their lives as is without having to answer questions from inquisitive grandparents that are around all the time. Within the context of your family, you no doubt already have some fairly sophisticated conflict resolution systems in place. Those work because everybody has learned to read each other's signals. Throwing a senior into that mix could spell disaster for the family dynamics.

But the biggest reason not to have your aging parent live with you despite some attractive benefits as we have discussed is that you, as your parentís caregiver, need to be able to separate yourself from the live-in senior for a while. Caregiver burnout is a big problem when everything rests on you for the health and well being of your parent. It makes good sense for you to be able to go home and just let it go for a while. If that sanctuary away from the stresses of being a caregiver can be preserved, it should be, in the caregiver's best health interest, your family's stability and even for the well being of your parent. After all, maybe Grandma needs to get away from you from time to time as well.

Having said that, still, there are many families that have made Mother-In-Law quarters work for their Live-In Senior and their family dynamic. Most are successful because the quarters are truly separated from the main family living space (a warm converted basement, or a cozy suite above a detached garage) with their own locking entrances. 

A lot depends on the Senior and how independent they are or want to be, or how isolated they may feel with such an arrangement. Do they want to cook for themselves, and store their own food? Do they need more space than the suite affords them? What level of care do they require, will you be spending more time in their 'home' than your own? Can they truly be expected to make that level of independence work? Do they wander at night? Can they reasonably be expected not to leave burning food on the stove? At best it is a series of compromises. 

You have to be aware that a Live-In Senior will be impacting your entire family. Actually some feel that it is a good idea to have their young people connect with Seniors during their declining years. The good that young people provide for the Senior is generally known, but it may not be so clear that having younger family members close to the Seniors may be a great training opportunity to broaden their horizons about seniors in general, and better equip them for the time they may have to shoulder the same caregiving for which you are now responsible.