Tips for Preparing Your Home to Live with an Aging Parent

by Nancy KupkaJanuary 25, 2018

My mother used to say that a parent can raise five children well, but five children can’t take care of one of their parents and do a good job. But that was years ago, when the nuclear family was the social norm. Since then, things have changed. People are living longer, and homes with more than one generation living together are more common. What’s more, adults are acting as caregivers for each other. A study conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons in 2015 revealed that more than 16 percent of adults are caring for another adult and 7 percent of caregivers are 75 years of age or older.

If you’re living with an aging loved one, you need to prepare your home to optimize their safety, comfort and privacy. Here are some tips to make it a happy living arrangement for all.

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Optimize the Home for Safety

One of the first steps in caring for an aging parent is setting up your home so your loved one can safely age in place. You may need to modify your living environment to support your parent’s physical and cognitive needs. Look closely at your indoor and outdoor spaces to see where you can prevent possible accidents. Here are some examples of ways to make your home safer:

  • If the entryways to your home through the front door and garage have steps, look into installing a ramp or garage lift.
  • If all bedrooms are upstairs, consider converting a first-floor room into a bedroom. Or, install a chair lift to avoid use of the stairs.
  • Add grab bars to the shower in the bathroom. Also look at the height of the sink and toilet. Your loved one may need a lowered sink and elevated toilet.
  • Make sure you have proper lighting throughout your home. Add recessed lighting, ceiling lights or higher wattage light bulbs to rooms that aren’t bright enough.
  • Consider if your parent can reach shelving in the kitchen and in closets. You may need to rearrange storage spaces to keep items within reach.
  • Ensure that all rooms have ample space for your loved one to get around. Remove clutter to reduce the risk of falls.

Think About Comfort, Privacy, and Independence

Setting up your home to allow for comfort, privacy, and independence will help reduce the risk of straining relationships and maintaining your parent’s social life, an important aspect of overall health while aging. Here are some simple steps:

  • Look into how your local community can meet your parent’s needs. Check if you have access to the public transportation or other forms of reliable and affordable transportation so your loved ones can get around. Help introduce your parent to social opportunities, such as local senior centers or groups.
  • Consider setting up a separate entrance, bathroom and cooking area in the home, so your parent can come and go, prepare meals, and have private space away from the rest of the family.
  • Ensure that your parent’s living areas are cheery and inviting. Think about the availability of natural light and space for their own belongings.

Get logistics in order

In addition to setting up a safe physical space for your parent and making sure they have access to nearby resources, keep the lines of communication open. Talk about the impact of this new housing arrangement on other members of the family. Come to an understanding with siblings, spouses and children about finances, decisions and roles. Also know that there are lots of resources available to help:

  • LongTermCare.gov offers planning considerations and options associated with your age.
  • National Institute on Aging has information on care-giving, long-term care and conditions associated with aging.
  • Your local department on aging outlines programs available in your specific part of the country.
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About The Author
Nancy Kupka
Nancy Kupka PhD, RN understands first-hand the joys and difficulties of taking care of an aging parent, as she cared for her mother throughout her golden years. Today, Dr. Kupka is a Manager of Clinical Programs and Quality at Walgreens, where you can find home health products like lift chairs to help assist your aging parent in the home.