The expression “boomerang kids” is used as a description of adult children who return home because they can’t afford a place of their own. Estimates are that 19% of those between the ages of 25 to 34 live with parents. So far, I haven’t found a statistic on the percentage of these young adults who need to be at home because of a serious health issue, which is the focus of this post.
Adult children can range from a college student to a middle age adult, whose spouse and children may also need a place to live. Clearly, there are different expectations and issues for a child that has barely left to go to college versus a 40 or 50 year old returning because they need help dealing with their illness or injury.
I wish I could say that I found one really great resource to help families in this situation, but so far I haven’t found it. Below are strategies, ideas and resources to consider. Please post additional ideas.
Before they Move In-Have a family meeting, discuss expectations and finances, and have an “exit” strategy. Be clear who is included in this relocation- your child, spouse/partner, and/or children. Hold a family meeting with all of those that will be involved in this new living arrangement. Identify up front what some of their special needs might be. How long will they need to live with you? Are you expected to be a caregiver? Can you physically do it? What about care of young children? Are you going to be expected to help with a car pool?
Be as clear as possible about your finances as well as your adult child’s. If helping your child places an undue strain on your finances, are there other resources and people who can help? Identify who is going to pay for what. Since there are special programs that can help someone in your child’s situation, identify appropriate organizations and understand what you can expect. Keep in mind that your adult child should pay for what they can, when they can for as long as they can.
What type of accommodations will be needed in the home? Do they need ramps built? What room(s) will they occupy? Food-will they help with meal prep; are they on a special diet; will they purchase their own food?
While there are some situations where it is difficult to develop an exit strategy, in most cases, be clear about how long the living arrangement is needed. For example, a 35 year- old son needs four months of chemotherapy. Discuss up front how long he may need to recover after treatment and agree to a four to seven month living arrangement.
In short, pre plan as much as possible. Before you meet, develop your list of questions, concerns, expectations and have them do the same.
Don’t Pay Their Medical Expenses: If you start paying for their medication and treatment, you can quickly spiral into poverty. "The difference between wealth and poverty for families in the throes of this process is eighteen months," Laura says. "No matter how much money you have, you can't sustain a rare catastrophic disease." Her advice is to NEVER pay a bill for your child. The minute you can breathe after being told the diagnosis, find a social security/Medicaid lawyer to help you get help. The alternative is abject poverty. Managing the disease costs millions. Coping with an AdultChild’s Debilitating Illness and Finding Joy
Use Local and Community Resources. Use the Getting WhatYou Need Checklist to help identify what might be needed and where to go in your community to find the resources you need. Also check out Healing the Whole Person: Ways toIncrease Well Being.
A woman I met at a caregiver’s support group told an interesting story about how she managed when her adult daughter returned home after being diagnosed with advanced cancer. Since this doubled her caregiver load-her husband had a serious chronic illness- the first thing she did was arrange for Meals on Wheels. Now that her daughter is better, and she is taken on some of the care of her father, they continue to use this food service as they like the food and it gives them time to do other things.
Organize Help and Support: I can’t stress enough the value of a LotsaHelping Hands website. It’s free and it allows you to organize volunteers, who can provide rides, meals, childcare, chore services and much more. Any combination of people- you, your child, or other family or friends- can manage the site, which takes minimal time.
Developing a support network is the first item on the Getting WhatYou Need Checklist for a reason. Talking to other people who are dealing with similar issues can make your situation a lot more manageable.
Seek out third party help if there is a break down in communication. Parents and kids know how to push each other’s buttons. Seek help sooner than later. Many health facilities have social workers and other personnel that can help with this. Another source is your local church or ministry.
They’re in Charge of their life. Even though they may be living under your roof again, they are responsible for all health care decisions, finances etc. If you want to be able to talk to their medical provider, they must agree to this and take steps to make that possible.
As tempting as it might be, your child is an adult and needs to plan his or her own life. Let them do it and encourage them in the process.
Foster Independence: If you do, they don’t do. Provide them as many opportunities, as realistically possible, where they can do for themselves.
Don’t play the blame game: Sickness is part of life, so is the current economic environment. There is no percentage in trying to hold yourself accountable for how they are responding to the current situation.
Take care of yourself: If you don’t take care of yourself first, you wont be in sufficient shape to help others.
Surviving Adult Children Living at Home: While geared for children returning home because of finances, there are useful articles for anyone dealing with adult children in the house. Also check out the Facebook page of the same name.
When Adult Kids Move Back Home from AARP