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Vail Daily column: Time for aging parent to move in?

We all have listened to lectures and read countless articles on the pros and cons of having a parent come and live with us, especially after Mom’s or Dad’s physical or mental condition requires that he or she can no longer be left alone.

First, it is important to understand that your parent’s personality traits will only increase when you live together. That halo that you see when Mom or Dad is lying in the hospital bed after major surgery and are helpless and frail will melt away when you are both now living together. Granted, your parent may become even nicer, but Mom or Dad may also become impossible to live with. So take off the halo and see the “real” parent before making a decision about moving them into your home.

A second component to consider: It’s never easy to deal effectively with money between relatives. This is why professional financial experts always suggest keeping monetary affairs separate from family affairs. However, when you are thinking about having a parent move in with you, it would be well advised to have a serious discussion about the monetary aspect of having he/she live with you. For example, consider discussing the cost of things like food, utilities, clothing, medicines, doctor’s bills and rent. A frank, perhaps even difficult, discussion should make this transition much more palatable.

The question of who will care for Mom or Dad should also be visited. Sometimes you may have a couple of siblings in the area allowing for some shared responsibilities. At other times, it may be your sole responsibility to manage the care of Mom or Dad (or both); and if you work that may require the use of an outside agency to assist with care provisions. Plan this in advance and it will take the pressure off of both you and your parent.

Another topic to address is your parent’s safety. Sure, all of us think our home is safe, but the fact is that most houses are not physically equipped for senior living; especially if that person requires a first floor bedroom and bath of their own.

So, what is the best way to handle the transition of having another full-time person living in your house? Will you add an addition to your house? Who will pay for what? How can you reconfigure your existing living space to accommodate another person or two? Will your septic system be able to handle the extra load? Will your water well handle the extra demand? OK, let’s breathe together. The questions do seem endless, but honestly need to be addressed prior to a parent moving into your home.

Many situations can be handled for a short duration of time … yet how long is too long? Start with a thorough understanding of the situation you are getting yourself into with regard to the length of commitment to providing shelter and care for your parent. This is vital for your financial and mental health. You want to avoid getting to your breaking point. One way to prevent that breaking point from emerging is to fully understand your needs and plan to make sure they are met.

Having a family member or parent move into your home is choice of love and compassion. Don’t set yourself up for failure by not addressing issues that could cause problems. There are a number of resources available both online and here in the valley that may assist and educate you — one of which is the Senior Expo that will take place Sept. 20 at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.


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