One of the hardest things for a caregiver to do is to set limits—and there are few times when it's more difficult to set limits than when your loved one can no longer live alone. Many caregivers feel that even suggesting that their loved one join a senior living community is disloyal. After all, their loved one needs assistance and may have cared for them when they were young. Shouldn't they reciprocate?
But raising a child is hardly the same as caring for a senior—and inviting another adult into your home is a decision that requires careful consideration. Rather than act out of a sense of obligation to their loved one, caregivers owe it to themselves—and to their loved one—to think their choices through. Ultimately, there is no "right" solution, just one that's best for everyone involved.
Here are some issues that you should examine as you evaluate your options:
- Family Dynamics. If you have a family, you must take the feelings of your spouse and children into account. If inviting your loved one into your house is something they really want to do, the experience can make you a stronger, more loving family. If they are not truly committed to the invitation, the move could be a source of tension and unhappiness.
- Personality Clashes. A successful relationship often depends on what people say to each other, how they say it, and what they don't say. If your loved one is opinionated, outspoken, or feels they have a right to comment on your affairs, you may be in for trouble. You also should consider your own personality. If you have unresolved issues with your loved one, daily proximity will bring them to the surface.
- Living Arrangements. Ideally, your loved one should have a bedroom of their own with a private bath. Will any of your family members have to give up their bedroom to achieve this goal—and are they willing to do so? Do you have a den or spare room that you can convert? Can you afford an addition? At a minimum, you should make sure that you have grab bars and other assistive devices installed, replace door knobs with easier-to-open levers, and tuck electrical cords away.
- Finances. Before you invite your loved one into your home, you should review their finances and your own. Adapting the house and providing support will require a considerable investment. Are your siblings willing to pitch in? Sheltering your loved one may provide tax benefits. If you pay at least 50 percent of your loved one's expenses, you can claim them as a dependent on your tax return and will be able to deduct related medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. To get clarity, consult an accountant.
- Time and Effort. Taking care of someone on a daily basis can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Do you have the personal resources and the flexibility to follow up your invitation by providing all the care your loved one needs? Are there services in your community—such as elder care centers or home-health aides—that you can call on to supplement your efforts? Can you expect your siblings to share the responsibility?
As part of your deliberations, it might be helpful for you to consider the alternatives and to tour a senior living community in your area. You might find that when all is said and done, independent or assisted living might be a better alternative for your loved one, as well as for you and your family.