When aging parents begin to need help, most want to continue living at home. Chris’s mom was able to grow older in her own home until her late eighties and my own mom did the same until she passed away peacefully at the age of 97. Both had help in their last few years, but mostly they maintained their independence and lived full, active lives. They were in relatively good health, involved in their churches and communities, and had family close by.
While most older adults want to continue living at home, growing older there may not be the right choice for everyone. There are many options that need to be considered when making plans for the months or even years ahead. Considering all the possibilities takes some time, but it’s an investment that reaps great rewards if thoroughly done. Considerations include chronic health conditions, characteristics of the home environment, availability of local family and support systems, and financial resources. Choices might range from remaining at home with help or moving in with a family member to selling the family home and opting for a smaller, more manageable living space like a garden home or apartment. Big houses might require too much upkeep for creaky joints, and stairs can become a hazard as well. In addition, when one spouse passes away, the other might experience deep depression in the emptiness of a home shared for decades.
As increasing numbers of Baby Boomers retire, communities are springing up everywhere that cater to their desire for active healthy lifestyles and opportunities for social gatherings in adults-only neighborhoods that offer attractive single-story open floorplans with limited home and yard maintenance requirements. Continuing Care Retirement Communities have stepped up to offer levels of care that appeal to those who, because of health concerns, wisely anticipate future needs but are able to begin at an independent living level that offers frequent social gatherings along with housekeeping and nutritional support if needed.
Moving in with another family member may seem to be the best choice for some, but this is not necessarily as easy as it might appear to be on the surface. Having your mom or dad (or both) move in with you could bring invasion of privacy on both sides, as well as disrupting routines for everyone. This transition should be considered carefully, and ground rules established for all concerned to include meals, schedules, household responsibilities and expectations, and even parking priorities if a car is also being added to your driveway or garage.
Home Instead has some good resources on living options, but the bottom line is that you need to do your homework, and do it well, before you or others make a decision that results in insult or injury. The end goal is that your aging loved ones can live where they want to as they grow older, safely and happily, and able to be connected socially with friends, family, and their faith community.
Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about helping your aging family members find the best living environment for their unique needs as they grow older.