Living With the Parents

Family Health, Featured Article, Healthy Living
on July 3, 2012

QUESTION: My aging parents want to move in with my wife and me. We love them dearly, but our lifestyles are on opposite ends of the spectrum. We travel every chance we get, but my parents are nesters and stay home. We exercise on a regular basis; they sit and watch television hour after hour. We manage our weight with healthy, nutritious snacks and meals; they eat fast food for dinner at least five times a week. We prefer not to live with animals; they have a dog, a cat and a parrot. We love my parents, but only see disaster down the road if they move in. Help!—Eduardo

RELATED: Senior Safety

ANSWER: It’s understandable that you and your wife are concerned about the differences that could create tension in your home. You are starting from a healthy place: You love your parents and want what’s best for everyone. But living with the parents isn’t for everyone. There are many choices if your parents are still independent. You could find a small apartment or condo close to your home where everyone’s privacy is protected. Getting together for a meal or two each week might appease their need to be close. There are also independent living facilities where seniors can continue to care for themselves, but also have options such as taking their meals in a community dining room. This set up allows them to meet others who might share some of their interests. An assisted living facility is also an option if you don’t believe your parents are capable of caring for themselves full time. Websites have been created to help people like you and your wife. A great place to start is This site will help you to understand the options and translate the terminology used for elder care, which can be daunting. During this transition, be sure to take the time with your parents to explain your actions. Let them know how much you love them and want the best for them. Make decisions together to ensure a happy and healthy future for everyone. There is a solution to your challenge out there, you just need to find it.

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Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (, the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.comor