Deciding whether or not an ageing parent should come to live with you is not a decision to be taken lightly. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s a very personal choice that affects all the family and those living in your household. And with it comes a mix of emotions that can make the decision even more difficult.
Each family’s personal set of circumstances is different. Deciding if your ageing parent should come to live with you can be complicated and fraught with indecision and high emotions. To help you and your family make the right decision, we have put together a list of considerations to help you navigate the complex issue of moving an elderly family member into your home.
Considerations when deciding if an elderly parent should move in with you
What kind of care will the person need?
An obvious consideration but one that is often overlooked. If you are not currently involved in the person’s day-to-day care, you may not fully understand what support the person needs. Often elderly people minimise their needs, not realising what care or support is available, and only flag issues of concern to family members once a situation has become unmanageable.
Take the time to consider what your elderly family member needs on a daily basis. If they have an existing health condition, how does it affect them and how will their care needs change as their health condition progresses? What they need now compared to a year’s time could be very different. Will you be able to accommodate this? Consider their physical, mental, and emotional needs – moving an elderly parent into the home is more than just having an extra mouth to feed.
How much assistance and supervision can you provide?
Depending on your loved one’s physical, mental, and emotional needs, you will need to provide a certain level of assistance and supervision. This could range from no assistance at all in the case of a healthy autonomous parent, to 24-hour support and supervision for a loved one with middle to advanced-stage dementia or other complex care needs such as advanced Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.
Do you have the time and energy to take this on? Are you out of the house working most days? Or maybe you travel often – how will this impact the person’s care? Who will cover your duties when you are out of the house? Consider your own lifestyle and needs. Often, when we care for family members we forget to care for ourselves. Your and your family’s needs are just as important as those of your elderly parent.
Examine your, and your parents, motivations
Take a hard and honest look at your motivations for moving your parent into your home.
Do you feel guilty? Does your sense of duty reflect other unresolved issues with your parents that you think you can fix by moving them into your house? If you have a strained relationship, consider what it will be like living together every day and the toll it may take on your relationship.
If the request comes from your parents, how valid is it? Are your parents pressuring you into making a decision? Are you currently the primary carer for your parent and they have come to expect more and more from you? If so, from their perspective, it may seem like a logical and reasonable request. But is it really reasonable and practical for all involved? And are there other options for their increasing care needs?
These are all critical questions to consider when thinking about inviting your elderly parent to live with you. You might benefit from talking this through with someone close to you and considering their insights.
How well do you get along?
An often ignored consideration in such an emotionally loaded decision. Of course, we feel a duty of care to our family members and often this feeling overrides the reality of the relationship.
Be honest with yourself. Can your relationship withstand living together? And the responsibilities and care that will come with it? Any existing strains in your relationship are likely to be magnified when you are living under the same roof. This consideration should also be extended to the family members that live in your household. Bear in mind the more people living in a shared space the more likely that tensions will occur.
Also, keep in mind the changing child/parent relationship when you are living together or caring for an elderly parent. If the move is primarily due to the care needs of your parent, this is likely to affect the dynamic of the relationship.
Is your home able to accommodate their needs?
Assessing the safety and suitability of your home for an elderly person is not dissimilar to the process you go through when you childproof your home. There are likely to be things in your home that you deal with every day (without even thinking about), which could pose a potential hazard or difficulty to someone older, trailer, and less mobile than you.
Some common things to consider are;
Stairs – can your parent manage the stairs? Even if they are perfectly capable of climbing the stairs now consider the future – is wheelchair accessibility likely? If so, a stair lift may be needed which requires a wide staircase. What about using the stairs at night? Are light switches accessible? Do you have a pet that likes to be around people’s feet or sleep on the stairs? These are all hazards for an elderly person.
Bathroom – Is there a bathroom available on the floor that your parent is on? Having a toilet nearby that is easy to get to is critical for the elderly. Does the toilet need to be raised? Can they access the shower without having to climb over the edge of the bath? Is the bathroom big enough for a wheelchair in the future? Grab rails in the shower and next to the toilet are common adaptations for elderly people even if they do not have mobility issues.
Sitting room and kitchen accessibility – Suitable chairs in the sitting room will be needed. As older people become less mobile, sitting on a low sofa becomes very difficult. It may be necessary to move furniture around to make it easier for them to get around the home safely, especially if they use a walking stick or frame.
Kitchens can also be tricky for elderly people. If they are frail, turning on the tap or holding a kettle full of water could prove difficult. Can they bend down to open a cupboard or reach a high-up cupboard when they need to get something? If your loved one has a health condition are they safe to use the kitchen alone?
Bedroom – consider the location of the bedroom in relation to the other rooms the person needs access to. If the only bathroom is on a different floor how will they access the bathroom at night? Is the bedroom big enough for wheelchair access if needed? The same access and mobility considerations for the kitchen and bathroom should be considered for the bedroom also. Maybe you will need to replace some furniture to make it more suitable, such as the bed or bedside table.
How will you work out costs? Have an open discussion about costs with both your parents and your partner, or anyone else in your household who shares household expenses. Will your parent pay the rent? Or a percentage of all costs? Or maybe you have another financial arrangement?
It may be difficult to imagine all the extra costs you may incur, but it is likely to go beyond increased food and power bills. Take into account any home adaptations that you will need to make now and in the future. Who will pay for these? How will your elderly parent contribute to household costs? And who will pay for things that are specific to the needs of your elderly loved one? Also, consider if you will need to take on more duties of care, will you need to work less? And how will this affect family finances?
Your loved one will likely spend most of their time at home and so you will need to heat the house during the daytime in winter. This can have a significant impact on energy bills. Have an open and honest conversation with all involved about what you estimate these costs to be and who will cover them.
House rules, privacy, and responsibilities
When an elderly parent moves in it changes the dynamic of the relationship – you become the decision-maker and primary carer. Your parent, who is likely to have lived independently by their own rules for many decades, becomes a guest in your home and dependent on you. This takes some adjusting for all involved.
Will your parent be able to live by your rules and respect your needs and wishes? Maybe you live in a vegetarian household but your parent is not. Or your parent smokes and drinks but you have children that you do not want to be exposed to these behaviours. Maybe they have a pet that will come to live in your house – who is responsible for their care and what rules do you need to put in place?
What level of privacy does everyone need? Agreeing on things such as bedroom privacy can be critical not only for you and your parent but others in your household who have needs too. Think about responsibilities also – whose job is it to wash your loved one’s clothes, change bedsheets, and clean bedrooms? Who is responsible for cooking and providing meals for your loved one? All of these day-to-day practicalities need consideration and discussion.
How would this move affect other members of your household?
It’s important to consider how moving your elderly parent into your home would impact everyone else in your household. The flow of daily activities and the times they take place may be disrupted when an additional person moves into the house. Things such as cooking in the kitchen, using the bathroom during the morning rush, and watching TV can easily be interrupted when another person is added to the mix.
Hold a family meeting where everyone in your household can speak openly and honestly about their concerns, needs, and wishes. Asking questions such as ‘Will everyone have enough personal space to relax in?’ and ‘Are we able to carry on family life as usual?’ will help everyone to consider what’s important to them and how things could change.
Will your elderly relative have a social network available?
Take into account that your elderly loved one has social needs and as such how will they access those needs? Do they have friends nearby who they like to socialise with? Maybe they go to a weekly Bridge club or coffee morning – how will they get to these events?
If your loved one would be moving a long distance to live with you, do not underestimate how much time and effort it takes someone to adjust to a new home in a new town. It’s a huge change and your loved one will look to you to help them integrate into the new environment and support them while they adapt.
Also, consider your local community – if your parent is active and independent, are there shops and other facilities within walking distance? Will they be able to get to the doctors, library, cafes, and grocery stores? Are there social events that they can attend? If not, they may become increasingly isolated and bored – and even more reliant on you.
Make a pros and cons list
This can be a useful exercise for you and your household, but also for your elderly parent. Be honest with yourself when writing your pros and cons list, write down everything that comes to mind without editing or judging yourself.
This exercise can help you identify some problems or potential issues you might not have thought of. When you’ve completed the task, you will be able to see if the negatives outweigh the positives and a clear list of both will help you to come to a decision.
Have a future plan in place
No matter how fit and healthy your parent is now things are likely to change in the future. This can be hard to predict and imagine but it is important to acknowledge and consider how your role of caregiver might change.
When this happens, how will you adapt? Will you quit your job or have a qualified carer come into the house to take care of them? How will this be financed? Maybe other family members can step in to help? It’s important to consider these factors for your and your household’s circumstances also – if you got sick who would care for your parent?
Agree to seek outside help if needed
As care needs evolve over time, so will the care that is provided. It’s important that your ageing parent can appreciate that changes to their health and abilities will also change the care and support that they will need. How will these decisions be made? Does your parent agree that if care needs become complex that other arrangements may need to be made?
Sometimes life takes twists and turns that we could never have predicted. When circumstances change the care and responsibilities you are able to provide are likely to change too. Seeking outside support should not be seen as a weakness or a sign that your care is lacking.
Consider all options, including professional support, and what is best for you, your household, and your parent now, and in the future. Talk with your parent about when and how to implement more care support. When the need arises, if conversations haven’t been had, it can cause conflict and stress for all involved.
What type of outside help is your parent willing to accept? Do they prefer in-home caregivers or would they be open to assisted living or a move into a care home? Identify local resources and assess the cost, so it can be considered as one of the options.
Home care agencies, like Country Cousins, offer a flexible and practical solution to caring for elderly loved ones in the comfort of their own homes. Live-in care is a great alternative to moving an elderly parent into your home or a residential care home.
To find out more, get in touch with our friendly care team who can discuss your options and offer a free enquiry service with no obligations. Call 01293 224706 today. Our free enquiry line is open Monday to Friday from 8 am until 6 pm. Alternatively, complete our enquiry form.