Moving an Older Adult in With You: A Good Family Fit?

Before an older adult moves in, consider her health and whether you have enough space

When an older relative or close friend needs daily care, moving her into your home can be a good solution. But home care is also a huge undertaking -- for you and for her. Before you commit to being a home caregiver, you need to realistically assess what's involved. Here are some essentials to consider beforehand:

Health considerations

  • Start with a medical consultation. Before you make any major decisions about home care, the person's doctor should weigh in. He can tell you what kind of care she will need and whether it's practical for her to live at home.
  • Factor in emotions. Leaving her own home and needing care from others is a significant loss of independence that can be depressing. It's possible she'd prefer to stay in her home and hire a caregiver there if she can afford it.

Physical space

  • Do you have enough room? If you're moving someone in you'll need a bedroom -- or at least a comfortable place for her to sleep or rest. If you don't have a spare room, can you move family members or furniture around to make space? Is it feasible to build an extra room or an in-law apartment? Talk with her beforehand about what the arrangements would be.
  • Consider space for equipment or supplies. Do you have room for a hospital bed (which is bulkier than a regular bed), commode, oxygen tank, or other medical equipment if needed?
  • Think about accessibility issues. Do stairs and narrow hallways make maneuvering a wheelchair or walker difficult or impossible?
  • Plan for bathing. For safety reasons, older adults who are weak or have balance problems might only be able to bathe in a bathtub. Others need a freestanding shower stall with handholds. Adaptations can often be made.
  • Is there peace and quiet? Is your home calm and quiet? If not, can she tolerate all the action?
  • Assess needs for privacy. Will the new arrangement give everyone in the family enough privacy?
  • Can you accommodate overnight caregivers? Is there sleeping space for a paid overnight caregiver if needed? This can usually be in the same room as the older adult if need be.

Dealing with finances and support when an older adult moves in

Before you invite an older adult to share your home, it's important to consider what expenses will be involved, whether you'll need to work fewer hours if you're the primary caregiver, and whether you can hire enough extra help or get unpaid help from others.


  • Will you have to cut back on your work hours or other commitments? In some cases, providing home care is only possible if you, your spouse, or another family member leaves a job, works reduced hours, or gives up other commitments. Can your family afford that?
  • Consider paid caregivers. Caring for someone in your home is sometimes only possible with the help of paid caregivers, which can be expensive. Factor this into your budget or the budget of the person you're caring for.
  • Plan for home upgrades or accommodations. Consider the costs of remodels or expansions, safety-proofing, or making your home wheelchair accessible.

Support considerations

  • Assess caregiving support needs. Daily care requires hours of labor. Many people use a combination of family members, friends, and paid caregivers to handle it. Are you comfortable building and managing a network of caregivers? Will friends or family members pitch in and help you on a regular or occasional basis? This is especially important if you can't afford hired help.
  • Consider the impact of outside caregivers in your home. How do you and the person you're caring for feel about having paid caregivers in your home? Some people are fine with this; for others it's uncomfortable.
  • Plan for breaks. All caregivers need time off, and sick days are inevitable. Any care plan should include backup for caregivers, including you.
  • Can you get private time in your house? Many people need regular downtime in their home. This can be tough when an older adult lives with you. How important is this to you? Is there backup care for her from time to time?

Emotional and scheduling issues when an older adult moves in

It's easy to underestimate how exhausting caregiving can be if you've never done it for an extended time. It's also unsettling for an older adult to have to give up her way of life and adapt to someone else's, no matter how close she is to the family whose home she shares. If you think carefully about these issues ahead of time, it'll help you decide whether sharing your home is a good idea.

Emotional considerations

  • Consider your own feelings. Caring for an older adult or relative can be draining, especially if she's very sick or experiencing dementia. Add to this the stress of changes in schedule, routine, and finances. Do you think you can handle all of this emotionally, and do you have the support you need?
  • Consider the older adult's feelings. Include her in decisions as much as possible. How does she feel about moving in with you? What will make it easier for her? Pay close attention to her opinions and ideas. Make sure she feels included and as in control as possible. Her participation will go a long way toward making home care work.
  • Think about family dynamics. Spouses, kids, and grandkids are all affected by this kind of major family move. Having a relative or other older adult live with you is usually a mix of rewards and challenges. Think honestly about what might change for your family. How will your spouse deal with it? Consider holding a family meeting or two to discuss changes, fears, and expectations.
  • Face up to the reality of intimate care. Daily care can include personal tasks such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and feeding. Some people are more comfortable with this than others. You may want to hire paid caregivers for some or all of these tasks.

Time and schedule demands

  • Does home care fit your daily routine? Consider your work and leisure activities. Do you have wiggle room in your schedule? Are you OK with cutting back on your activities if necessary, including volunteer work or what you do for fun?
  • Plan for getting the person out and about. Will you be able to manage getting her to medical appointments, to the senior center, or to visit friends and relatives? Will you need to drive her everywhere or can she use public transportation or paratransit? Are there reliable senior transportation or paratransit services your area?

The choice is yours -- and hers

It's important to remember that there's rarely one perfect solution for providing daily care. For every family it boils down to weighing and balancing many factors to settle on the best option. Most families adjust to change over time.

Moving an older adult in is a great choice for some families and simply not workable for others. If it's not for you, you can still help her find a workable solution. Other options to consider include providing care in the person's own home or assisted living.

Kate Rauch

Kate Rauch has spent more than two decades writing about health for websites and print media, including WebMD, Drugstore, the Washington Post health section, and Newsday, as well as HMOs such as Kaiser Permanente (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and Group Health (in Seattle). See full bio

over 2 years, said...

Thank you for artucle it was very informative for me and any other person who is considering becoming a Caregiver or help an elderly family member move into your house. I have been A caregiver for several family mrmbers(Grandfather,Grandmother, Aunt's, father, mother). I just lost my mother in February of this year. I went through all of this, and had other siblings. I tried to include them in on everything, decision making, Medical decisions, Housing: stay in their own home, nursing home. Assistant living, or take tbem to your house. My mother was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer 11mos. (June 2014) After my father died(July2013)and I relocated to stay with my mother in her home.. I took her to the store,church, dr.appt, friend and church family visits. Then when the disease started to progress I was trying to handle it all, because Om thinking everyone else is working, and I am not. Thinking of everyone's feeling , but mine. All O knew my MOTHER wassick and I had to take care of her, I did it and took her to places that she wanted to go too, and I even took her home before she passed. She went down very fast, and was not able to do chemo or radiation. Someone had to be with her at all times. There went my LIFE. I provided and took care of my Mom, it became very overwhelming. I called the family to get help or suggestions and was told" Whatever you decide I go along with it." So, I'm still back where I was making tbe decision on my own. I asked for help, someone come to visit and give me the extra help I needed. No one could come, but one. The one who could come you didnt want him too, but he did. (Thaat is another story) . My Brother is herenow inGeoriga with me, still have to do all. My Brother was no help, more of an hinderes. I reach out again for help, my Sister in law came, and caused more problems. Now, it to the point mommy os a lot pf pain and I wanted her to be comfortable. The Hospice Agency recommended Hospic unit or nurseing home.they sent the nurses 3x a day, then i could fonally get out, and do something for myself. After abouta month, she had to have the nurses 24hrs. I did my daily routine get her for the nurse to Feed, bathe and clean her/dress for the day. Then by that time it Lunch time. Feed her, watch T.V. , visitors, prayer, church member having church with her. Feed her, that if she wants to eat. Get het ready for bed. Now wind down time where you ckean up and prepare for tomorrow, When I would go sleep, I'll either sleep on the othet side of the bed, or leave my door open so I could hear if she needed me. It was hard, but it was fair those werr the longest, and roughest 5mos. Of my LIFE, went bsck tp family to tell zi need help its getting overwhelming. I said if no one can come, even though my Brother was still there,causing all kind of mote problems. So I sent him back home, because he wasno help. I was going to have to put her in hoise due to pain level untolerable, and I'm at the point where I was on the verge of a nervous break down. I end up siding my Mom to an Hospice Unit to get the pain undecontrol. They said she could stay there for ttwo weeks. She went really down then. They eanted to send her back home, but I told them I vould handle her at home anymore. The find a nursing home that took nothing but Cancer Patients, and it was FREE.(Our Lady Of Perpetual Help, Atlanta, Ga.) Then sent her there and thats where she was two more months. Before she left to go to the other facility, my Husband died, and he was in Miami. Then I had to go to Miami and bury my husband. I was gone for a week, and my Brother haf come back ,and I lefy hom there went my Mom. He stayed ay her befside from morning to night. Wgen I returned tgey had moved her already to tge othet facility. The Nuns(Sisters) TOOK WONDERFUL CARE OF HER, UNTIL SHE DIED. I had to handle and arrange everything. All of the funeral services , getting the church, dealing with the phone calls, returning calls, receiving the visitotts. My family arrived the day before thr funeral. Left the next day, after the funeral.!, I had to move all of apartment and but it in storage. (34years in a 2bed apt) wothoit any help from my family. Tganks tp the neighbors thsy how I was able to get all of it out. I hurt mysrlf and mess up my back with all tge lifting and everything. I have to have surgery on my Back next week, and still alone, besides my fiancee. Believe me taking an elderly friend ot family in , yoi definitely need to discuss it and think it over. I love you MOMMY, and miss you dearly.NO REGRETS!!! ,

over 2 years, said...

For all the wonderful things this site provides, the stories from the field are best. Read the stories to see that we are not preparing our families for what is inevitable. We need to use our time wisely. Investigate the alternatives. Do good record keeping so that you can turn your discovered, local, current information over to another family, they can add to the research and turn it over to others. We need to network with other families. Right now I have a 94 year old who needs a friendly visitor, someone to chat him up who remembers the old days. He is not senior center material, just wouldn't like it, but a drop in visitor would be just the thing.....we could 'take in' a senior for a few hours a week. We need better planning all around. Someone needs to develop a video that can be seen by the whole family...gently reminding that these days need to be planned....not making a decision IS a decision. If you have a functional accessible apartment in your home, but Mom won't move from her lifelomg home, you've got a marketing problem. We should develop some pretense early on....come for three days, we need someone to look after things. Have your parents come and stay even if it is a ruse, so they become acclimated. Then when the inevitable happens, he or she will be used to the surroundings, having had short visits over the years. The older generation needs to plan, we need to make it easy for planning. should develop a short video that families can watch together that will make it easier to open discussions. Remind everyone, you'd pay attention to acclimating a pet to new surroundings....we should make it easy for older people to accept a new place to live by 'practicing' ahead of time.

over 5 years, said...

Tips on dealing with sudden arrivals & how to restore them. Mom lives with me, but was "taken in" by my sister against her wishes and relieved of her home/property. She's almost into her new life/home, but it took almost a year. Just a few links to APS, elder abuse/neglect, how to "rescue" a loved one might make this article more helpful, but it's great for those who have the luxury of time in making the important descisions. Please know that this site is truly a godsend for all of us. Thanks for being here!

about 7 years, said...

Our family is blessed with health and good finances. This article is very helpful in the planing. All family members need to keep in touch not just holidays to say hello. Your fan, Frank "YourCardGuy" San Jose California

about 7 years, said...

This is something should be planned so when the time comes it's easier to make such decisions. It has to be a challenge when it comes to taking on the responsibility of an aging parent(s).

about 7 years, said...

Great advice. Lots to mull's a hard decision.

over 7 years, said...

There are no good options. We are the sandwich generation. Taking care of grandkids and elders. No time for our own lives. It's just the way it is. Assisted living is an option. It's possible you might be able to arrange an assisted living situation where they have 2 bedrooms and can keep each other company and share the cost, which, in New England anyway, is about $70k a year. It's cheaper to do assisted living than to hire home care by a long shot, unless you can find someone willing to live with one of them and take care of both. An apt in the basement of the duplex for them? We've offered to have my MIL come be with us but she will not leave the town she was born in even though our house is totally handicap accessible, so we give free rent to folks on the other side of the duplex along with some pay and they care for MIL when I'm not there. Something like this might work for you, as it's far less expensive than any commercial option.... good luck

almost 8 years, said...

I have the highest regard for those who are in good relationships with aging parents and want to help in every or any capacity. I, on the other hand, have an aging mother with a bit of demensia, not alzheimers, who is becoming more and more physically disabled and I do not have the space, energy, or desire to take her in. After a childhood of bad treatment from my parents, my father is deceased and my mother is now 'strongly hinting' that I take her in with myself and my husband. We recently purchased a duplex and put both aging parents in their individual homes and look after them from 'afar'...10 miles away. No other siblings will take her in and my husband is the only child left to look after his mother. Any suggestions? As I said, we have NO desire to bring them into our home for multiple reasons. Not heartless, just don't believe it would be in their best interest or ours.

over 8 years, said...

TO DAGDON FROM GALOWA I FOUND THIS, AND I HOPE IT HELPS Good Luck! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

over 8 years, said...

This is a problem that should be discussed before it is needed, because the need can be sudden and long-lasting. In our case it was advanced dementia on part of the spouse, so MIL moved in with 30 minutes notice when he got abusive. She is semi-invalid and our house only reqd minimum modifications. She agreed to pay a monthly amount for all of her care (except med insurance). But I read somewhere about a formal contract to establish that arrangement for accounting purposes to the siblings. Where can I get reference to that contract wording so we can make it all legal?