Dear Penny: Am I Wrong to Tell My Kids Not to Abandon Me in a Nursing Home?

A mother and daughter take a selfie together. The elderly mother is sticking her tongue out while holding a cup of coffee.
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Dear Penny,

I have requested that one of my grown children include me in their living arrangements to avoid leaving me totally on my own as I get older. That way, I would not have to lean on strangers for help. 

All I am asking for is a room with a bathroom and kitchen privileges. I would pay them a small monthly fee. I am just asking not to be the main provider for housing costs as I age and to avoid going to any senior facility. I get a fixed income from my small pensions and Social Security. Am I wrong to request not to be abandoned by my children? 


Dear M.,

There’s certainly nothing wrong with telling your children that you’d like to live with one of them. It sounds like you’ve already done that, though. I suspect that you’re writing to me because you haven’t gotten the response you want.

If you’ve presented this idea as either they invite you to move in or they’re abandoning you, I’d suggest a different tactic. You’re asking for a big commitment, and I don’t think a guilt trip will be effective.

Let’s just acknowledge upfront that children can never truly repay their parents for their sacrifices. In general, I think adult children owe it to their parents to help them in their old age. But your kids aren’t your insurance policy. Not everyone is capable of providing the same level of support.

Dear Penny

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Money is certainly part of the equation here, and it’s great that you’re willing to chip in for expenses. But if your children are considering this living arrangement, they’re probably thinking about a lot more than just money.

If your children have families of their own, this isn’t their decision to unilaterally make. They may also be worried about whether they’d be able to properly care for you should your health decline.

You’ve already told your kids what you want. Now it’s time to ask them whether this is something they’d seriously consider. This discussion needs to be as specific as possible. Talk about the timeframe, as well as how much you’d be able to contribute each month. If any remodeling would be necessary to accommodate you, you might offer to help pay for it if you can.

Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what moving in would look like for their lifestyle. If you’re close, emphasize the positives. Tell them how much you’d love to be able to spend more time together. If your children have kids of their own or busy careers, you could also offer to help out with childcare or household responsibilities.

But you also need to give your kids the freedom to express their concerns if they’re reluctant. Be prepared for the fact that they may have worries that aren’t easy to hear. Moving in with your adult children isn’t going to be viable in every situation, particularly if you don’t have a close relationship.

There are plenty of options that don’t constitute abandonment, even if you can’t move in with your kids. Maybe you could rent a small apartment in the same neighborhood, or perhaps you could stay in your current home if your kids commit to checking in on a regular schedule. You’re probably not going to finalize a plan in a single conversation or two, so it would still be wise to look at alternative places to live that are close to your family and within your retirement budget.

If your kids aren’t willing or able to let you move in, try not to take it as a sign that they’re abandoning you or that their decision represents their love for you. That will be difficult, I know. But do make it clear how important their love and support is to you, regardless of whether you can live together.

These aren’t easy conversations to navigate, but the sooner you have them, the better.

You may not get the answer you want out of your children. But at least if you know that living with them isn’t going to be an option, you can start thinking about the next best choice.

Does your balance sheet need a reset? Try these smart ways to organize your finances.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].