FAQ: Should We Expect Our Live-in Parents to Help Pay for Food and Utilities?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 04, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Should we expect our live-in parents to help pay for food and utilities?

Expert Answers

Joel Gottsacker is a geriatric care manager and certified case manager in southern Michigan and the owner of GeriatRx, which provides comprehensive social work and nursing support as well as geriatric case management.

Yes, when family members are living together in one household, everyone needs to chip in. They're partaking of the expenses of your household, so it's better for everyone if they pay room and board at a going rate you all agree on. Many adult children make the mistake of thinking short-term and saying, "I can't charge Mom and Dad rent," but believe me, sharing expenses will help avoid resentment and conflict in the long run. It gives parents a sense of both responsibility and pride, and they're less likely to feel like a burden.

It also gives the older adult a voice. As rent payers, they're entitled to make requests and help make decisions, including those that affect the household budget. For example, Dad might say he wants red meat at dinner a couple of times a week. Maybe he doesn't get steak if that's not in the budget, but he gets hamburger or meatloaf.

When parents pay rent, it also makes it easier to work out disputes, such as how high to turn the heat. A common point of conflict is that the parents want to run the heat all day, and the adult child can't afford the utility bill. If parents are paying room and board, they can offer to pay a little more to keep the heat up, if that's what they want. Or everyone can work out an affordable compromise.

Community Answers

Shunny answered...

My challenge has been that when my mom asked to live with us, she agreed to make up the modest financial loss we would incur by losing a housemate. After we moved her in, she said she didn't agree to it. I do keep track of the food I buy for her (she is a picky eater and most of the time doesn't eat like the rest of the family), but I go "in the hole" every month and have to dip into my retirement funds.