It’s every adult child’s nightmare: getting a phone call in the middle of the night from an aging parent, or worse, the hospital. Maybe there’s been a fall or a medical emergency. Perhaps the early stages of dementia have advanced more quickly than anticipated, and there’s been an incident. Either way, one thing is clear in this situation — it is no longer safe for the parent to live alone.
Deciding to move an aging parent — especially one who is disabled — into your home isn’t a decision anyone makes lightly, but it’s often the most affordable option. One out of every four caregivers lives with the person they are caring for. While this can be very rewarding to both the son or daughter and the aging parent, there are several important pros and cons to this arrangement. On one hand, if the parent is mentally and physically sound, they can help in small ways with the kids, housework or finances. On the other hand, if they require constant care due to a disability or illness, the entire family might experience moments of added stress, anxiety and frustration.
That’s why you need to weigh options and considerations when an elderly parent moves in with you. Though there might be heavy emotions surrounding the decision, it could still be the right choice. This guide will help you make that decision by giving you some insight on:
- Understanding how to give the right kind of care.
- Estimating the costs associated with assisted living facilities versus in-home care.
- Making your home elderly-friendly.
- Adjusting the whole household to the lifestyle changes.
Giving the right kind of care
Being the child of a senior who needs more vigilant care means you have your heart in the right place — your parent’s health and well-being is your priority However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are as qualified as an expert to give the best care.
If Mom or Dad is still relatively healthy and independent, moving him or her in will be much simpler and smoother. However, most people don’t get to the point where they consider moving a parent into their own home unless in response to a specific health crisis. In that case, it’s important that you know your parent’s illness or limitations very well. Consider where this health situation is likely to go. How will a chronic illness, a broken hip or mental illness progress one, two or fives years from now? You may be prepared today, but you also need to think about how prepared you will be later on.
If the health situation is serious or extreme, you may not be capable of giving the best quality of care. Living with you might only be a temporary solution. This could help ease the transition to a nursing facility, or you could hire an in-home professional to support your caregiving responsibilities. However, if their health requires 24/7 monitoring, specialized care or equipment, it may be best to to move them to a nearby nursing home or assisted living facility.
Estimating the associated costs
Sometimes the decision to move in an elderly parent comes down to cost. On average, a nursing home can run about $80,000 per year and an assisted living facility costs roughly $43,000 per year.
However, there are also care costs to consider when moving Mom or Dad in. Things may be easy now, but the amount of assistance needed will most likely increase as they age. That means that sooner or later you might consider finding an in-home aide. A caregiver hired to help with self-care tasks like bathing, feeding and chaperoning activities can cost about $20,000 per year for full-time help.
For other tasks around the house, you may want to consider hiring an errand runner or personal assistant to ease the burden on both you and your loved one. These services can cost about $25 per hour, and may come in handy in a pinch. If you’re reacting to a recent health crisis, you may need to hire a caregiver with specific medical training, which can double, or even triple, the cost of care.
Providing full-time care may entitle you to financial or other forms of assistance. Do thorough research to help you prepare and budget for the many facets of care giving.
Making your home ready for care
Moving in a parent who is aging or disabled is, in all probability, the most cost-effective solution for many people. However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be some expenses associated with renovating areas of your home to make it safe and secure for senior care. Some common remodeling projects include:
- Installing an automatic lift to help the senior navigate flights of stairs ($1,500 – $3,000).
- Building a ramp in addition to your front steps if the senior needs wheelchair access ($400 and up).
- Widening doorways for wheelchair and walker access ($500 – $1,000).
- Converting an attic, basement or den into a bedroom, possibly for you or your children. You’ll want your senior to be comfortable, and usually, a first-floor bedroom without stairs is the safest place for them to reside ($1,500 – $5,000).
- Adding a new bedroom or suite for your aging parent, especially if there is no other room to renovate ($100,000).
- Adding handrails and modifications to the bathroom to prevent slips and falls ($40 per foot).
- Covering prescription medication costs and healthcare copays.
- Paying additional bills for electricity, groceries and water.
The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) released a study stating that out-of-pocket caregiving costs can run about $5,500, but other studies have shown the costs may be much higher, topping at around $15,000 per year for care.
While these renovations are less of a financial burden than a nursing home or assisted living facility, not planning for any costs can creep up on your finances. To avoid problems or roadblocks later, talk to your parent and family members about this up front.
Adjusting to the lifestyle changes
There are going to be more sacrifices than just finances and space when you move in an elderly parent. Will your child’s music disturb your aging parent? Is your elderly housemate as clean and tidy as you expect the rest of your family to be?
Instead of focusing on the potential issues, think about this as an opportunity for everyone to grow. Creating room for your parents in your home can help your children learn how compassion leads to joyful compromise. It also empowers everyone to try out critical thinking and conflict resolution skills. If your mom or dad is uncomfortable with your teen’s loud music, ask your child to use headphones after a certain hour, or pick up a pair of noise cancelling ones for your parent.
When you bring a senior who needs extra care into your home, some of your vacation plans will likely have to change. You may have to put off some vacations, while others may just need to be modified or adjusted to accommodate for accessibility. Again, get the whole family involved in the decision-making process, especially if you feel like resentment is building.
Caring for an aging or disabled parent can help you give back some of the love and devotion they gave to you when you were young or going through challenging changes. There will certainly be stressful times, and not everyone will be satisfied with each compromise or outcome. However, if you feel in your heart that this is the right decision, the relief you feel being able to keep your aging loved one safe will override most tense and stressful moments. Remember, you are one of many to make the choice to have your parent live with you; there are others out there, in groups online or in person, who can provide emotional support when you need it.
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