Older adults who require assistance with daily living receive excellent care in senior living communities, but that care comes at a price. When assisted living or a nursing facility is too expensive, bringing a parent, grandparent, or senior relative to live with you, or renting out a private one-bedroom apartment for your loved one, are two more cost-effective alternatives. However, providing a safe living environment usually comes with costs of its own, and requires careful attention to detail.
Depending on your loved one’s mobility, it may be necessary to make physical or structural modifications to your home. A senior who needs a wheelchair to get around may require the addition of an entrance ramp that bypasses the front stairs, at a cost of anywhere from $3,500 to $8,000. Widening doorways to allow for wheelchair access is a common option, or you could pay about $2,500 to install pocket doors. Ideally, a loved one with limited mobility should have a first-floor bedroom. However, if the floor plan doesn’t allow for such an arrangement, an electric chair lift may become necessary (an expense that can cost $3,000 to $4,500).
A senior who needs assistance on a regular basis should have a living space that’s both comfortable and functional. If you happen to have a spare room, you’re probably in good shape. Otherwise, converting an attic, basement, or family room might make the most sense. Adding a new bedroom or suite can mean a five-figure invoice — anywhere from $10,000 to $80,000 — so making do with what you have is probably the most cost-effective option. If that won’t work, there’s always the option of renting a small apartment for your loved one.
The bathroom is usually the most dangerous room in the house, the site of more falls than anywhere else (80 percent of senior falls happen there). Fortunately, there are a number of affordable and fairly simple modifications that can be made in the bathroom. An older adult may need help getting on and off the toilet and staying safe in the shower or bathtub, so be sure there’s a secure handrail within easy reach.
You can prevent slips by putting down non-slip material next to the bathtub, in front of the sink, and around the toilet. As Angie’s List points out, other safety options include refinishing the bathtub with non-slip flooring material or having a zero-entry bathtub/shower installed.
Fortunately, there are safety precautions that won’t cost an arm and a leg. And, depending on your home or the rental home’s suitability, a few low-impact adaptations may be all that’s necessary to give your loved one a happy and healthy new home. Handrails are an important addition in the hallway, and should be at least 36 inches wide to accommodate any mobility assistive devices.
You can’t be around all the time, so you’ll need to decide who will care for your senior relative when you’re working, running errands, and taking care of yourself or other family members. Being a caregiver is a full-time responsibility, whether you’re there or not, so determine up front whether it’ll be necessary to hire a home caregiver. If you’re not sure where to turn for help, check into the Caregiver Action Network, the National Alliance for Caregiving, or the Caregiver Alliance, all of which offer classes and support groups as well as valuable information for home caregivers and other family members.
When the cost of a senior care facility is too high, bringing an older relative to live with you or renting an apartment for him may be the only affordable options. As much financial sense as that makes, it’s still not an easy adjustment and may require physical adjustments and structural adaptations to make it work for everyone involved. Fortunately, many of the precautions that need to be made don’t cost much money and will help keep your loved one safe and happy.