The Looming Crisis: Aging Parents And Adult Children Still Living At Home

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lazy adult childYou may know of an older individual or couple who has a middle-aged adult child living with them in their home. We are not talking here about those who sensibly chose a multi-generation household for good reasons. And this is not about the daughter who quits her job to move in to care for Mom. Nor are we addressing the real needs of disabled adults who need physical care from parents who provide this. Rather, we are talking about the adult child who depends on parents for the basics of life: food, clothing, shelter and other benefits. This person, often middle-aged, has not been successful in the workplace.

At AgingParents.com, we hear from the families, usually the siblings of the adult child who does not work yet who receives free lodging and support from the parent. The common thread is a co-dependent relationship between parent and the “problematic” adult child. There may be a mental health, substance abuse or other issue that led to failure to support one’s self independently. The co-dependent parents make it easy for the adult child to not work, not seek alternatives and not make future plans. They provide a home and often everything else. The parents may feel guilty about the unsuccessful child, they may be intimidated by that offspring or they simply may lack the courage to insist on some other arrangement.

You may be thinking, ok, so what’s the problem? They chose this. They can deal with it. Here it is: something is going to force change eventually.

Aging parents keep aging and sometimes cannot continue to support their son or daughter who does not work. Because the needs of the elders normally increase, sometimes creating the need to sell the home that shelters the adult child, this sibling becomes an issue for the entire family. The non-working child has some kind of problem that also renders them less than capable of providing great care for their parent, should the parent need it. The desire to go to assisted living, or downsize or raise cash to pay for care comes up and the family agrees that the family home must be sold. The aging parent needs the money. No one knows what to do with the sibling still living at that home. They won’t move out.

These very unpleasant scenes can be avoided with good planning. First, the family needs to meet to address the issue openly. If Mom or Dad needs to sell or rent out the house, the sibling clinging to it has to have an alternative. Next the family needs to explore every option for the needy sibling. Can he or she qualify for public benefits, such as disability or government-subsidized housing? Do the parents have the means to set up a trust to provide for his or her basic needs? Is there any other option for support? Delving into these things takes time. The social services system can be complicated. The time to start talking is not on the eve of a crisis when the family has to act promptly. The parent who has allowed the situation to go on must be persuaded to make a change before that crisis.

Exploring these matters in advance and communicating them to the parent and the needy sibling involved can go a long way to resolving the issue. If these descriptions fit your own family, look ahead, take leadership and get the conversation going. If you’re not sure how to do that, we provide professional advice at AgingParents.com to help you get a plan together: legal options, what to say, what to do and how to address resistance.

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