NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Having an elderly or ailing parent move in with you and your family rather than shuttling between two homes might make sense, but this is not the kind of move to make on a whim.
Consider these five tips from Consumer Reports Money Advisor that could help you address some important issues before you bring your parent under your roof and in your daily life:
Get your legal ducks in a row.
To protect your parent's legal rights, be sure to have in place a will, an advance health-care directive or living will, a financial power of attorney, and a health-care power of attorney. Also, decide before the move how much you and your siblings will each pay toward the cost of extra food, utilities, home retrofitting and nursing or other care. An attorney should draw up an agreement that spells out all the details; you can alter the document later if your parent's medical or care expenses change. For a list of attorneys that specialize in elder-law issues, go to www.naela.org.
Understand the finances.
If you pay for at least 50% of your parents' expenses, you can claim them as dependents on your tax return. That means you'll be able to deduct related medical expenses -- including doctor's visits, dental care, insurance premiums, medical equipment and home care -- that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Modifications that you make to your house to accommodate your parent's health-care needs -- such as installing handrails on a stairway, putting in a ramp, or widening doorways -- are also considered medical expenses.
Retrofit your home.
You will want your parent to feel as comfortable as possible in your home. Ideally that means providing a bedroom and bathroom of his or her own. If you don't have a spare room, consider closing off a dining or living room with a wall or even just a curtain for privacy. Make sure that the rest of your home is safe and accessible as well: install bright lighting in hallways, tuck electrical cords away from walkways, and replace door knobs with easier-to-open levers. Also, if your parent is disabled, lay down commercial grade rather than plush carpeting, which makes it easier to maneuver wheelchairs and walkers.
Arrange for services.
If you are not sure what health-care services your parent will need, talk to his or her doctor or consult a geriatric-care manager. You can find one in your area through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (www.caremanager.org). If you need to hire a home-care aide to assist your parent with basic activities, stress that it will allow him or her to remain more independent in the long run. Set ground rules for the aide in order to maintain some privacy for your own family. A paid caregiver needs to know that there may be some areas in your home that are just for you, your husband and kids unless there is an emergency.
Don't overlook your family's needs.
Bringing a parent to live with you will affect your family's lifestyle and emotions significantly. Be sure to take time for yourself -- exercise, eat healthfully and keep up your social contacts as best you can. Explain to your kids ahead of time that they may not be able to have friends over as much, or will need to be quiet after a certain time of the evening. Spend time just with your spouse or kids, even if that means asking a sibling or other relative to stay with your parent while you and your family have a special outing for the day or weekend.
By Marshall Loeb