Individuals in the “Sandwich Generation”, those adults that are still in the process of raising their own families while also taking care of their aging parents are also being faced with the dilemma of whether an aging widowed parent should continue to live independently. The idea of an aging set of parents living alone can be a reason for concern but if you add to the mix that now your one parent may be faced with living alone following the death of a spouse, the stakes may be raised.
There are certain steps that can be taken to make the home friendlier for a parent that is now living alone. Just as you’d child-proof a home for children, you will also need to adult-proof a home for your aging parents. Making certain that items in cupboards are within easy reach, offering your parent a home medical alert device and making sure the bathroom is safe from trip and fall hazards are among the items you can do to make the home more senior friendly.
Consider too that if your aging relative was accustomed to being with his or her spouse for decades, the idea of not having that partner can throw off the balance of the remaining spouse’s life. Being faced with taking care of bills, household tasks and other daily items such as cooking or cleaning may be items with which they aren’t accustomed. This can lead to distress.
If you, or they, find that maintaining the family home is too much of a chore, it may be time to look at downsizing. This could be a delicate conversation to have as having already lost a spouse will lead to a high level of emotional stress and if you add to that, the idea of losing the family home, it could potentially lead to downward spiral in health.
To help your family and your remaining parent make a decision on yet another life-altering move, here are some items to consider:
- Ask friends, family and senior health professionals for advice on moves to a senior living facility. Ask what the experience was like and ask if they’d be willing to speak with your entire family regarding the move.
- Ask your remaining parent what they’d truly like to do and ask them to honestly gauge their capabilities as it relates to living alone. Don’t plant fears in their mind but ask them to honestly decide whether they can maintain the family home, keep up with their medications, and household chores, etc.
- If downsizing is going to be an option, plan to spend quite a bit of time sorting through a lifetime of memories and making hard decisions on what to keep and what to donate or sell.
- Take a thorough look at finances to see what is financially viable when it comes to either remaining in the family home or making a move to a retirement community or purchasing a smaller home.
- Visit several communities before making any final decisions and make certain your parent is involved in the decision making from start to finish.
- If he or she decides to remain in the home, check into in-home healthcare services in the event none of your family members live close enough to help out with day-to-day tasks if necessary.
- Involve the family physician to gauge his feelings on whether your parent is healthy – both mentally and physically – enough to live alone.
Even though you and your family members may feel better about your remaining parent moving out of the family home, you need to look at the situation from their point of view and work as a team. While health, safety and welfare need to be top of mind, don’t rule out home medical alert devices and the services of in-home caregivers as a way to allow your parent to continue to age in place.