How to Help an Aging Parent Keep Living at Home: 8 Tips

Updated

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

Throughout the aging process, many things change. You may expect some of these changes as your parent ages, but others may come as a surprise. Your parent’s needs, wants, and desires will evolve depending on factors like their medical condition, cognitive ability, and access to social interaction.

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Most aging adults state that they want to remain living at home until they die. For some, aging in place is possible; for others, it may not be. Cost, safety, and caregiver availability all factor into whether your aging parent can stay at home.

If you prepare by assessing your parent’s financial situation, talking with them about what is most important, and putting safety features in place, it may be possible to keep them at home. Our tips will guide you in doing everything you can to keep your aging parent at home. 

Why Might You Want Your Aging Parent to Stay at Home?

If you think about it, most people of any age prefer to be at home, wherever that might be. We all want choices in our life, and that doesn’t change as people age. It just becomes more challenging.

Understanding why your aging parent wants to stay at home will help you not only make it possible but, when the time comes, talk openly with them about other options. The important thing is to do what you can to make aging at home possible. 

Home is where the heart is

Not all but many older adults have lived in the same house and neighborhood for decades. The depth and number of memories grow with each year. Family gatherings, holidays, friends, and grandchildren bring laughter, tears, and complex feelings. The thought of leaving all of that behind can be very emotional. Even with a decline in ability, staying home seems preferable to moving. 

Familiarity

Familiarity goes beyond memories. It extends to every aspect of your aging parent’s home and neighborhood. The yard, the layout of the home, furniture, nearby shops, church, and neighbors all contribute to familiarity.

Leaving all of that behind can be disorienting and disturbing. You may have heard that moving is one of the most stressful events a person can experience in their lifetime. Imagine how hard it is for someone who is aging to envision that. The comfort and familiarity of being at home is very powerful. 

Fear of moving

The logistics of moving can be overwhelming for anyone. Fear comes from thoughts of getting rid of belongings, fear of the future, and what the new place will be like. New people and unfamiliar surroundings can be anxiety-provoking. The emotional impact of a move is too much to deal with. The emotional and physical energy required to move doesn’t seem possible. 

Slippery slope syndrome

One of the underlying reasons aging parents want to stay at home is because it gives the illusion of continued independence. Moving to independent or assisted living is the beginning of what your parent may view as an inevitable decline in freedom and ability. From there, they may fear going to a nursing home. Moving out of their home is the first step towards dependance on others.

How Do You Know If Your Aging Parent Should Keep Living at Home?

Determine whether or not your aging parent should keep living at home is very challenging. If you want to honor their wishes and have the financial resources to do that, you can keep them at home. If finances are limited, you may not have a choice but to move your parent to assisted living. Here are some things to look for to determine that your parent can keep living at home.

Your parent is able to make decisions

If your parent can make rational decisions about their care and safety, then they may be able to keep living at home. However, if your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia, they may want to stay at home but be unable to. Even without cognitive impairment, some individuals make poor decisions, and you may have to accept that. Your parent may want to remain at home despite safety concerns.

Your parent has sufficient financial resources

Most people underestimate the cost of care as they age. It is possible to get around-the-clock care, but it’s very expensive. Caregivers can provide help with bathing, dressing, mobility, and hygiene. But if your parent needs private nursing care beyond what home health can offer, the cost can soar. However, with ample resources, your aging parent might be able to remain home.

Your parent’s home is safe

The fact is some homes are very challenging to make safe. If the home is older and multi-level, and your parent has significant mobility issues, they may not be able to remain at home. The cost of substantial renovations might be prohibitive. If your parent’s home can be made relatively safe with some reasonable accessibility additions, then they can stay at home.

Your aging parent refuses to move

As unpleasant as this is to think about, it does happen. Your parent may refuse to move, and there might be nothing you can do about it. They shouldn’t be living at home but demand to be there. Demanding aging parents can be incredibly frustrating to deal with. 

Your aging parent is willing to accept help

If your parent knows they need help and is willing to accept it, that can be a big step towards staying at home. When a parent refuses in-home care, the challenge of remaining safely at home increases. Safety and wellbeing require a willingness to accept help. 

Tips for Helping Your Aging Parent to Keep Living at Home

The single most important frame of mind to have in helping your aging parent keep living at home is planning as early as possible for the unexpected. Responding during a crisis is not only stressful, but it can lead to bad decisions. Start by going through our caring for aging parents checklist and follow our additional tips to keep your aging parents where they want to be at home.

1. Plan early

Early planning entails having open and honest discussions with your aging parent about what they want and exactly what will be involved to make it happen. As part of the planning process, establish advance directives, health care, and financial power of attorney.

Ask your parent how they envision their aging process and what would prompt them to consider moving. Talk about the potential future costs of care and whether their estate can meet the maximum care requirements. 

2. Address accessibility before you need it

Simple safety additions such as grab bars and a walk-in shower are not expensive or unattractive. Bathrooms are hazardous for falls, so doing what you can now to make it safer can help. Also take a look at the entire house, including stairs, laundry, and garage, and imagine your parent with a walker or a wheelchair. To the extent that it’s appropriate, make changes now to accommodate their needs later. 

3. Research care

Researching care options to keep your parent at home will give you some breathing room when you need it. Depending on where you live, you could have hundreds of care agencies to choose from. Selecting your top three will narrow down your search. Also consider looking at medical home health and hospice companies for when you might need them in the future.

4. Be involved

By being involved, you can intervene earlier to prevent potential problems from getting worse. Being involved can mean phone calls, but visits are even better. As a healthcare proxy, you can talk to your parent’s healthcare providers to give updated information about their condition and any issues.

If you have siblings, get them involved so that you aren’t handling the bulk of responsibilities. Keep all sensitive medical and legal information safe for easy access when you need it.

5. Hire a home inspector

Hiring a home inspector might seem like an unusual tip, but a good home inspector can do a detailed assessment of any maintenance issues with your parent’s home. As parents age, they sometimes neglect to take care of routine and other home maintenance problems due to mobility or cognitive issues. Repairing home systems before they become safety hazards can help to keep your aging parents at home

6. Encourage healthy habits and independence

Healthy habits will help your aging parent stay independent and happy. Healthy habits include good nutrition, hydration, and movement. Talk with your parent’s doctor before starting or changing dietary plans or initiating exercise.

Consider hiring a personal aide to assist your parents with shopping and cooking nutritious foods. Encourage safe movements such as walking or chair exercises. 

7. Meet their social needs

Loneliness can cause serious physical and mental health problems. If your parent doesn’t drive anymore, hire an aide to take them to social events. Do what you can to assist them with visiting other members of the family.

Teach your parent to use social media platforms and the internet to keep them connected and stimulated. Assess their social needs and help them to stay connected to family and friends.

8. Be flexible 

You may come to a point where you don’t think your parent should continue living at home. They might have other ideas. Try to be flexible in your approach to their desire to remain at home, and go through the consequences, both financial and otherwise, of remaining at home. Talk openly and honestly with your parent about their desire to remain at home and additional ways to make that possible. 

Helping Your Aging Parent Stay at Home

With enough planning and resources, you can help your aging parent stay at home. Despite your efforts to keep your aging parent at home, you may have to move them at some point. When that happens, you can rest assured that you have done everything you can to keep them home. 

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