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Spending this Easter weekend with your parents may be special, but could you live with them permanently?

Living with elderly parents can work if everyone is on the same page.

Living with elderly parents can work if everyone is on the same page.

Published Apr 16, 2022


Durban – Major considerations around retirement living include retirees’ needs for security, continuous care models, and being part of communities to avoid loneliness and isolation.

For many retirees who cannot afford or cannot find space in a retirement development, however, often the only option is to move in with family – usually their adult children and young grandchildren. And as special as that may sound, there can also be challenges.

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How such a move will affect family members, and the challenges it will bring, depends on a number of factors, says Riette du Preez, a Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist with a special interest in elderly care.

“Despite the challenges, many families still go this route.”

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Overcoming the challenges

Reasons leading to this choice include elderly parents requiring specific health care, social or cultural expectations for parents to live with their adult children, or financial situations.

Du Preez says there are certain things families can do to help navigate the decision, such as ensuring communication between all family members, from grandchildren to grandparents, is prioritised.

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Household routines will also be affected so these too must be carefully considered.

“It may be helpful to compromise to meet everyone’s needs, even if it means taking turns. Roles and responsibilities can often become issues in co-habiting families.

“Deciding on the daily, practical running of the household and who will take charge of what is key. We often leave them to chance, causing frustration and conflict in relationships.”

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Establishing parental roles

Another issue often left to chance is the nature of relationships between individuals in the family. For example, if the adult daughter and her mother never got along before living together, chances are this will not change.

“Problematic relationships are bound to be amplified when you live together,” Du Preez says, adding that when grandparents live with their grandchildren, confusion may arise about the parental roles.

“Grandparents often take on parental responsibilities when both parents are working and this may cause conflict between adults and confuse younger children if not managed.”

She advises that the issue be handled respectfully between the adults, and that consistency is maintained when dealing with children. However, involving grandparents in certain decisions is necessary to help them feel integrated into the family.

Splitting family time

Taking time as a family without elderly parents is also vital, although it is important to allow them time without the family.

“Deciding to live with an elderly parent can be very hard or it may come naturally. Whatever the case, it is important to consider all the positives and negatives,” Du Preez says.