8 questions to ask before Mom and Dad move in

Sharing your home with older family members isn't for everyone, but it may cut costs and make caregiving simpler for you. Here's help with eight questions about the money side of the decision.

By Money Staff Dec 9, 2013 5:04PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyParents and kids both grow old, like it or not. Eventually, we swap roles. It can be a muddy transition, tangled with emotions and money stress.

Senior couple walking past shop carrying bags, smiling © Maria Teijeiro, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesAbout a fifth of middle-aged Americans gave financial support to a parent 65 or older in 2012, the Pew Research Center found. Inviting Mom and Dad to live with you might help cut some of the costs and make caregiving simpler for you. "It's easier to care for an elderly mom or dad in a nearby room, rather than one who's across town or even in another state," says AARP.

But sharing a home with older parents is not for everyone. Here are some financial impacts to think over when you're making the decision:

1. What's the cost of long-distance caregiving?

Caring for someone who lives far away is expensive. Long-distance caregivers have higher expenses, an AARP Policy Institute study says. The cost of travel is one of them. When a crisis happens, as it surely will, the costs of last-minute travel are even steeper.

Missed work and the stress of managing care from far away are just two more downsides.

If this is the situation you're in, AARP has advice and tips. The National Institute on Aging has a publication to help you assess the situation.

2. What's the cost of having them at your place?

If you're counting only financial costs, bringing your parents into your home may be the cheapest solution. But that depends on variables like remodeling, the cost of home care if they stay put, and the price of local nursing homes.

Americans provided their elders and other adults with $450 billion worth of unpaid care, with an average hourly value of $11.16, in 2009, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute's 2011 report (.pdf file)  on the economic value of family caregiving. (The median hourly wage of a home health aide is about $10, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.) If your parents lived with you, would you have to cut back on work hours to help take care of them?

The news isn't all bad. You may be able to deduct certain expenses, like crutches, hearing aids and mileage for driving your parent to the doctor. The unreimbursed medical expenses must be more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income to qualify for a tax break. See the rules at AgingCare.com.

You can also claim your parent (or any relative) as a deduction if you pay more than half of their financial support. AgingCare.com explains the details.

Long-term-care insurance, if your parents had the foresight to buy it, could make your decisions easier and lighten the financial load for everyone.

3. What are the alternatives?

The alternatives are in-home care, adult day health programs, assisted living and nursing homes. Look up and compare costs with this interactive map from Genworth, which sells long-term-care insurance.

The average cost per day for a nursing home is $230 nationally, according to Genworth's yearly Cost of Care survey (.pdf file).

4. Would home health care work?

Home health care includes lots of services that help older people live independently. You hire a company or an individual to help with cleaning, cooking, laundry and personal care. You can also hire specialized help such as licensed nurses or massage therapists.

You or your parent may have to shoulder the cost out-of-pocket, but do see if help is available from other sources. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says:

Home care services can be paid for directly by the patient and his or her family members, or through a variety of public and private sources. Sources for home health care funding include Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, the Veterans Administration, and private insurance.

The costs range widely. The national average for a six-hour visit by a home health aide is $120.30, or about $20 an hour, says the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program. That’s $31,200 a year for a six-hour visit five times a week.

5. Do you have the space?

Think over the logistics of having older people in your home. Could they get around easily and safely? Will they need to negotiate steep stairs? Is there room enough for everyone?

6. Should you remodel?

Remodeling to expand a home or make it more accessible can mean installing grab bars in the bathroom or adding a whole new wing. The New York Times writes about making those decisions.

Remodeling Magazine's 2013 Cost vs. Value Report shows the average price of various types of remodeling projects by city.

7. Could you buy a new home to hold everyone?

Homes built to hold several generations are trendy right now. MSN Real Estate wrote about costs for these "multi-gen" homes:

Pulte Homes offers casitas in new homes in the Phoenix area that are priced from $500,000 to $600,000. And Lennar Homes' NextGen four-bedroom, three-bath homes include a "private living suite" with a secure private entry, kitchenette, living area, bedroom and bathroom. Prices vary, but in Bakersfield, Calif., 2,257-square-foot NextGen homes start at $257,990.

More commonly, builders are meeting this demand by offering homes with a second master suite on the lower floor or an extra "flex" room that can be used as a den, office or extra bedroom.

8. What's available in your town?

When you're thinking through how a shared home might work, learn about services available in your community. The U.S. Administration on Aging's Eldercare Locator can help.

Meals on Wheels, if it's offered, delivers prepared meals to seniors' homes. Plug your ZIP code into this site to find out if Meals on Wheels is available locally.

For elders who can get around, local senior centers (find one here) have classes, meals, field trips and adult day care programs.

Are your parents living with you? How is it working?

More on Money Talks News:


Dec 10, 2013 10:21AM
No jobs for the young. No retirement for the old. No future for the once great USA....except for those elected officials and their wealthy supporters. 
Dec 10, 2013 9:17AM
I have an illness that will most likely put me in a wheelchair.  My daughters family and I are looking for a house together with a MIL suite or room to make one. I will make the down payment on the house and do occasional child care for them. I will also take care of my own bills including medical, groceries. etc. When my Social Security comes through, I will pay them a monthly payment to help with utilities.
Dec 10, 2013 8:23AM
My outlaws thought they could move in and live for free, keep their social security checks, and live a glorious retirement.  I told them if they move in, they will have to turn over their SS checks to me and I will give them an "allowance" for life's little necessities (gifts, personal items, etc.).  Needless to say they never brought up the idea again.  Make sure there is an actual need to have them move in and not just another person to take advantage of!
Dec 10, 2013 11:50AM
Most folks do not want to live with their children, unfortunately it does happen for many different reasons.
Dec 10, 2013 1:06PM

I am never sure if its the 70 year old parents who have moved in with "the kids" or the 30 year old "kids" who have moved in with the parents now.

Dec 10, 2013 12:47PM
I would add, that if you are married, both spouses must be in full agreement as to whether a relative - any relative - lives with them.
Dec 9, 2013 10:36PM

Hell of a Pres we have, now parents are having to move in with their kids.


So much for that Hope and Change.


2016 End of an Error.

Dec 10, 2013 10:17AM

Parents move-in with me?!?  HAHAHA!!!  That's what nursing homes are for!

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