As parents age, they may reach a point where living independently is no longer an option.
And many American families are not only facing this issue; they’re coming up with a multigenerational living solution.
Forty-four percent of home shoppers would like to accommodate their elderly parents in their next home, according to survey released in 2016 by John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Before a senior relative moves in, however, planning is essential to help ease stress.
“The adjustment of moving from their own home into yours is an emotional one for all involved,” said Debi Meyer, an interior designer and principal of Design with Distinction.
Follow these guidelines to get your home ready for aging parents to move in:
1. Set Aside Some Space.
“The best way to give a parent a sense of independence in an adult child’s home is to take a look at the layout of the home itself,” said Michael Saunders, a home accessibility consultant.
Some rooms on your main floor may be able to be adapted to make a suite. If there isn’t space on the ground floor, look for a bedroom attached to a bathroom or near a bathroom on the second floor.
“Adding a kitchenette to the bedroom, such as a bank of cabinets with a bar fridge, is another relatively low-cost way to make the space their own,” added Saunders.
2. Declutter the Area.
“If your home is cluttered, making pathways crowded, be sure to purge excess furniture, papers, accessories and the like before your loved one arrives,” said Meyer.
Look in the room where your relative will be staying also. If you’re converting a spare bedroom or office into a space for mom and dad, you’ll want to remove extra boxes, items, and other supplies you have in the area. Get rid of or store what you don’t need, and store the rest in a different spot.
3. Make the Home Safe.
“Good lighting is essential for seniors,” said Meyer. “Be sure all lamps have 3-way bulbs ranging in wattage from 75 to 150.”
You might also install recessed lighting on a dimmer switch in hallways, as well as pathway lighting about six inches above the baseboards.
Consider adding grab bars in the bathroom and a mat or two to prevent slipping.
Also remove area rugs that could be tripping hazards.
In the kitchen, keep in mind that simple things like pots and pans are heavy, noted Meyer. If your parent will be cooking and preparing meals, it may be worthwhile to invest in lightweight cookware with handles that are easy to grip.
4. Decide What They Can Bring
In early 2016, Deborah Reale of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, moved her 87-year-old mother and her dog in.
“When I asked her to move in with me, she was worried about her furniture,” explained Reale. “In order to help her become acclimated to my house, I decorated her room with mementos, photos and paintings from her house. I moved some of her furniture as well and mixed it with my family room and living room furniture.”
One such piece was the leather recliner Reale’s father had used. Now Reale’s mother sits in it every day.
“We have some of our best conversations when she’s in that chair,” said Reale.
For items your parent won’t need to bring along, consider donating them to a charity or another family member. Belongings that don’t hold sentimental value could be sold online.
5. Talk About Finances.
“Decide ahead of time how much financially your parent will contribute to the household expenses,” said Jennifer FitzPatrick, author of “Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing the Stress of Caring For Your Older Loved One.”
While you’ll want to consider individual budgets, it may be reasonable to have your relative continue paying for his or her personal expenses.
“Since most older parents moving in with their kids are on fixed incomes, it helps to agree on a set monthly contribution,” noted FitzPatrick. For instance, if a parent wants to help pay for groceries, you might agree on a $200 a month contribution toward food.
6. Think About a Pet.
“Small pets are amazingly holistic for aging seniors,” explained Meyer. “You’d be surprised how easy it is for your parent to talk to animals. Pets provide unconditional love while expecting nothing in return.”
Reale’s mother brought her dog, Rozie, along with her when she moved in.
“The dog brings her great joy and companionship,” said Reale. “Rozie sleeps on her bed at night, which helps my mother rest more soundly. Rozie and my mom are both older, and they kind of feed off of each other’s energy.”