According to a 2018 study conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the likelihood of older adults living alone increased with age. 39% of people aged 65–74 lived alone, with this number rising to 40% of 75–84 year olds, and 51% of those aged over 85.
For caregivers, looking after a relative who lives in their home alone can be concerning, particularly as their abilities start to deteriorate. At a certain point, it may be necessary to start considering alternative living arrangements for them. One of these considerations may be moving in with them or having them come to live in your own home.
Should you Consider Moving In?
Depending on your current living situation, you may be able to consider moving into your relative’s home, or, if your own home is large enough, have them stay in yours. This decision should be made together with the person in your care after discussing the range of options that are available.
This is an important decision that both the caregiver and the person in their care should take time to consider. While living with the person in your care has a number of benefits, there are also drawbacks to this solution.
The Benefits of Living with the Person In Your Care
Moving in with the person in your care can often make the caregiving role easier, particularly if you already provide a high level of care and support to this relative. For many caregivers, the benefits of living with the person in their care include the following:
- Less time spent travelling between the two residences
- Increased ability to provide higher levels of care and support to the person in your care
- Monitoring the person in your care more closely, and with ease which can reduce feelings of stress and worry
- Building on the relationship with the person in your care to develop a closer connection
- Greater ability to enhance the quality of life of the person in your care by providing social interaction and activities (this can be as simple as watching the TV together)
- Allowing the person in your care to remain at home for longer in an environment that is comfortable for them. This can help them to maintain their independence for longer.
- Reduction of certain expenses through sharing bills, food, etc.
The Drawbacks of Living with the Person in Your Care
While it brings many benefits, there’s no denying that living with the person you are caring for can be difficult. Some people who have moved in with a family member to support them as they age, have reported the following difficulties:
- A feeling of being ‘on duty’ constantly with very few breaks. As a result, it can feel like life revolves around the caregiving
- Blurring of the caregiving boundaries
- A loss of sense of independence
- In extreme cases, a loss of sense of identity, as you may start to feel defined as a ‘carer’
- Feeling pressure as a result of increased expectations. These raised expectations can come from the person you are caring for, as well as from other family members.
- A negative impact on your social life, which, over a long period can impact relationships and friendships
- Less opportunity to work, travel, etc.
To Move in or Not: Making the Final Decision
As mentioned above, it’s important to carefully consider your situation before making any decisions. Discuss the benefits for both you and the person in your care, as well as the things you may both need to compromise on:
- Consider all of the living options and support available to your older relative
- Communicate openly with the person in your care and discuss the difficulties that they are facing. You can then look for the most ways to assist them.
- Talk to other family members and close friends about how they may able to help with the caregiving role. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice and support.
- Outline conditions with the person in your care and other family members for example, the tasks if you need to – e.g. agreeing to community services or regular respite
If you do decide to live with the person in your care, remember that this decision is not irreversible; if it’s not working for either of you, you can revisit the decision at any time.