Q: I am moving my mother into my home so I can care for her as she ages. What do I need to do to prepare my home for her?
A: When moving a parent into your home be sure to take time to think through all the changes that need to be made so you can have a plan. This includes both physical changes to the home, as well as the emotional changes this new cohabitation and caregiving relationship will likely bring
Consider your mother’s care needs and physical needs. If possible, create a bedroom on the ground floor with access to both the kitchen and a bathroom. If the only bedroom available is on a second floor you may want to investigate adding a chair lift to make access to downstairs safer and easier. Think not just about her needs now but as she ages, so that you do not have make large changes later.
Look at your mother’s current belongings and furniture, and talk about what is most important for her to keep. You may be able to use her current bedroom furniture in your home, which will make it feel comfortable for her. If not, then be sure to use the same bedding and decorations, if she chooses, so that it feels familiar and homey. If she has a favorite chair, see if there is a way to add it to your living room.
Chances are she will have to store or give away many of her belongings. By keeping a few key furniture or decorative pieces that she values it will help her feel more secure with her new living situation.
If your mother uses a walker or wheelchair be sure there is adequate space to navigate hallways and rooms with the floors free of clutter. Examine the bathroom for safety. Install grab bars and non-skid mats in the tub. If your mother will need assistance with bathing, then add a handheld shower hose and have a shower chair ready.
Think about your mother’s schedule and habits. Is she an early riser or late sleeper? Does she require assistance in the middle of the night? Is she able to navigate alone to get food from the kitchen? Consider rearranging a few cabinets in the kitchen so they are lower and easily accessible to your mother. The more you can arrange things for her to do independently, the less you will have to do for her.
As much as possible, include your mother in the discussion of how to arrange things. This will help her feel that it is a shared environment and that she is welcome in your home. Of course, you can also use this discussion to set boundaries and create house rules, if needed. For example, if you work from home and need the TV off during certain hours then be clear about this expectation. If TV watching during those hours is important to her then put a TV with a chair in her bedroom.
If your mother will be home alone consider getting her a personal emergency response system, such as a Phillips Lifeline® device, that she wears. Then she can press the button if she falls or needs help while home alone.
If other people live in the home with you be sure to include them in the plans. Listen to their concerns and find out what is most important to them. Moving someone into your home is a big change for everyone. Allow time and space to adjust. Communication and realistic expectations are important for a smooth transition.
Be sure to take care of yourself as her caregiver. Seek out support and build in time for yourself. Think ahead about scheduling time to maintain your social life and activities. Also think about fun activities you and your mom can continue to do together. Allow time for reminiscence and looking through old family photos. While caregiving can be stressful you can also cherish some of the new memories you can build together with your mother.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.