Co-habiting with an elderly relative? Three ways you can prepare your living space for their arrival

It can be all too easy to immortalise parents as our primary caregivers. After all, for many of us, they are the first point of call when we need physical or mental care, advice, or financial help.

So, when the time eventually comes when they need more care than they can provide themselves, it might come as a shock, especially when you must start making some critical decisions. 

Amongst all the decisions you’ll make during this period, one of the most significant will be whether to enlist the services of a live-in carer, transfer them to an assisted living facility, or move your loved one into your own home. The latter decision, while increasingly popular, is enormous and, as such, deserves thorough preparation. 

Each older adult has a unique set of needs your home will need to cater to – to ensure that they’re safe, comfortable, and able to live with as much independence as possible. From installing grab bars and handrails to providing a rollator and wheelchair ramp, there are many ways that you can prepare your living space for their arrival that foster harmonious cohabitation and make their transition into co-habitation as smooth as possible. 

If you’re unsure where to begin, we’ve created this article detailing some of the best ways to make a living space that supports your loved ones’ unique needs while cohabiting with them. Including tips regarding safety, accessibility, comfort and much more – continue reading to discover how to convert your living space into one that reduces the risk of accidents and promotes independence. 

Consider how someone with limited mobility would get around your house 

One of the most common side effects of ageing is the loss of muscle mass, strength, and bone density, which contributes towards stiffer joints and the reduction of cartilage thickness, thereby making it much more challenging to get around without walking aids like a rollator, or walking stick.

Mobility issues affect about 35% of older adults over seventy; therefore, it is wise before your loved one moves in to inventory your home and consider its accessibility. 

Things you might want to consider could include but might not be limited to the following: 

  • The position of the stairs. 
  • The number of steps it takes to get from one room to another. 
  • The ease of moving from one room to another. 
  • The types of door handle each room has. 
  • The length/width of your doorways. 
  • The location of frequently-used rooms such as bedrooms and bathrooms. 

Once you have considered all the above, you can determine the types of changes your loved one will benefit from. One of the best ways to ensure your loved one can roam your house independently is by purchasing a rollator for indoor/outdoor use like the ones from Rollz, which will provide them with as little or much support as needed. 

Ensure that your home is safe 

Once you’ve ensured that your elderly loved one can get around your house, you’ll want to draw your attention towards the next step, ensuring it’s safe to move around. While we’re sure there is nothing inherently dangerous about your living space, many things that might not seem harmful to people without mobility issues (or other health concerns) could pose a safety risk for an older adult. 

Obstructed walkways, seating, electrical cords/appliances, and many hidden hazards could pose a safety risk to older adults in the home. Therefore, you must go through your home and take note of anything that could be a threat and either replace it with a safer alternative, move it to a part of the house they won’t habit, or discard it. 

You may have to make a few minor alterations (or even significant ones depending on your loved ones’ needs!), such as lighting adjustments, applying non-slip wax to floors, getting rid of loose rugs and removing wheels on wheelchair. Some of the most important rooms to make these changes include the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. 

The bathroom might face the most changes since a large percentage of falls happen in this room due to its slippery flooring, which is an amplified safety risk because it is primarily moist. And with falls being one of the leading causes of injuries in older adults, it is essential that you take the time to ensure your home is as fall-proof as possible – starting with the bathroom! 

Make the transition into co-habitation as smooth as possible 

Although you might be relieved that your elderly loved one has accepted your invitation to come and live with you, it is essential to understand that they might not feel the same way. After all, they likely hadn’t co-habituated with anyone besides their partner (or yourself when you were younger) for several years and, as a result, are used to being by themselves. 

Whichever scenario applies to your loved one, it is essential to understand that this will be a significant change for both of you, meaning that all efforts to make the transition into cohabitation as smooth as possible will be appreciated. Thankfully, there are various ways to achieve this without feeling like you are smothering them; some of the best practices include: 

  • Give your loved one time to adjust to the change, even if that means allowing them time to be alone for a little while. 
  • Update your décor with some of the furnishings or accessories from their home, making them feel more at home until your living space becomes more familiar. 
  • Don’t uproot theirs or your daily routines; try to keep them as normal as possible so that you both feel normal despite the significant change. 
  • Over time, incorporate your parent’s routine into day-to-day activities; for instance, if they always go to the local newsagents to get a copy of the daily newspaper, you could consider tying it in with taking your child to school in the morning and so on. 

Doing your best to make the transition as easy as possible will ensure that you and your loved one have a much more pleasant co-habitation experience and that no negative feelings arise further down the line.