If you are considering moving your Alzheimers or Dementia parent into your home, there are some serious things you should consider first! Tips and ideas for things to think about from when we moved Mom in with us.
Our Dementia Story
We moved our Mom in with us after she had lost 60 pounds, had a mysterious fall and laid on the floor for 2 days before reaching out for help. She was in the hospital for a week and then the nursing home for two weeks.
Obviously she was not going to be able to take care of herself, but moving her into our house was a BIG step that I am not sure we considered all the ramifications of before doing.
Luckily for us we had lived with Mom before when we were out of state so it wasn’t “weird” to our children that Grandma would be here, but some families don’t have that background to build on.
Please note, this is more a post about a parent who needs help rather than one who is medically incapacitated and needing constant care. Please don’t feel bad if you can’t move your seriously ill parent home with you! Sometimes full time nursing care is needed and it doesn’t mean you don’t love them as much as we love Gram.
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Do They Want To Come?
Before we talk about things to consider, let’s talk about whether your parent WANTS to move in with you?
Our Mom got so debilitated and weak that she pretty much had to move in, but we had known for a while before that this could eventually be an option we would have to consider.
Even knowing she “has” to live here, there is a fair amount of pushback and general grumpiness that she can’t live on her own anymore.
If you are “forcing” your parent to move in, be prepared for pushback along the way. Not to dissuade you, just so you know this might not be a smooth ride.
13 Things To Consider When Moving Your Parent Into Your Home
When I was thinking about writing this post I thought that there would be a super big hierarchy from minor to major things, but it just hasn’t worked out that way. So these are in no particular order, other than they are things that we had to deal with.
1. Where They Will Sleep and Bathe
In our situation we had our oldest daughter (who wanted to move out anyways) switch with Mom. She moved into Mom’s condo and Mom moved into her old room which has a bathroom attached.
This worked out great because we could outfit Mom’s bathroom with push-up bars and get rid of slippy rugs.
If you are going to be sharing a bathroom with a dementia parent, please note that there may be germs. Mom has trouble with fecal incontinence and we sometimes have quite a mess!
If I was sharing her bathroom or if the kids were using it I would for sure be much more freaked out about germs than I am with the way our house is set up.
Mom has been shopping a lot to decorate her room (yay) but has some ideas we differ on about what is appropriate for her to have in there (no to the hot plate, yes to a microwave and little coffee maker). I do think that there should be some leeway to letting them make their room their own, but you may have some safety battles.
2. Hygiene Issues
Okay, here goes, Mom isn’t as concerned with germs and cleanliness as I am. She was super okay with washing her dishes in the same sink as she was spitting toothpaste and we were having poop battles in.
She also doesn’t shower or change her clothes as much as we do (and make our kids do).
While cleaning her condo up for my daughter to move in, there were some super icky things that I would never allow cleanliness-wise for our house that Mom had lived with for quite a while by the looks of them.
So how does this effect you you may be asking yourself? Can’t you just swoop in and clean everything behind her? Nope!
Most dementia people get some kinda weird ideas and also want to keep a fair amount of autonomy. While I think putting your clothes away as soon as they are washed, Mom thinks I am being mean or picking on her when I swoop in to “save the day”.
Things might not seem as easy after your parent moves in and you may not be able to control things as well as you did when you were just taking care of kids, pets or your spouse.
Additional resource: 6 Must Have Products For Elderly Caregivers Dealing With Poop
3. Pill Organization
Even before Mom moved in I had been helping with doctors appointments and trying to get her medications sorted out. We had tried a bunch of different pill organizers and even set up alerts on the phone to try and help make sure she took her medicine, but memory loss had made that super hard for her.
We do all her pills for her at this point, reordering prescriptions and handing them out three times a day (it would be hard for me to remember all that now, not sure how the doctor thought Mom was going to manage all that!)
We work from home so this is not as much of an inconvenience as it might be in some families, but definitely something to work through.
With dementia, there is such a bonus to setting up a “system” and then letting that be the guiding force, rather than winging it everyday.
In our house we have kids to get to school, work to do and then making sure Mom gets meds and is properly fed and hydrated.
For sure the more you can do a routine each day, the easier it will be for them to know what to expect and to be less agitated when “new” things come up. If this seems a little cryptic, here is an example of a non-scheduled day and how it can go off the rails…
Generally on a weekday, the kids go to school and I am home with Mom all day. But somedays I have to leave and that is not “normal” to her.
We have to put the cats away and I have to let her know numerous times where I am going, why I am going and when I will be back. We have to make sure she has a water cup, and a board written out to show her what is going on so if she forgets she can read what is happening. (this was from the nursing home, but we do this for her every morning at our home too… it helps her remember what is going on with the day!)
Any change in routine is hard for her to understand and the more confused she is, the more work it is to do.
Now, don’t let that stop you from getting out of the house if your loved one is able to be left alone, just know that the days of popping in and out may be over for a while if your Mom lives with you!
Additional Resource: My Morning Routine As A Caregiver
Because Mom has lost so much weight, we are super careful to make sure she gets enough to eat. We give her food and she gives half of it to the dogs… but something is better than nothing!
Your Mom may have dietary concerns you need to address or you might be able to just have her eat what you eat. But think about this before she moves in!
I have seen in some of the groups that there are mid day concerns when caregivers have to work outside the home. Many times they will have meals ready to eat and plenty of snacks, but dementia makes them forget to eat them.
You may also have to change what the whole family eats if you don’t want to have to cook two meals. Not really a problem, but could mean more time in the kitchen.
6. Driving & Wandering
Will your Mom expect to keep driving? Our subdivision is huge and Mom knows that she can’t get out of it without directions, but she still talks about “taking herself to the store” or “running away” if she doesn’t get what she wants.
I don’t think she would take the car, but we had to leave her on the insurance as someone with a license in case anything bad ever happened.
Your Mom may still be able to drive, in which case you will need to figure out all the insurance ramification and try to work out some kind of system that works for you all.
Wandering is another big problem. Some loved ones will leave the home if they are unsupervised (my Mom is more of a sit in the chair all day kind of gal so we don’t have this one).
You may have to install door locks or alarm systems to keep track of them. We handle this by leaving the doors to our lanai unlocked in case of fire, but deadbolting the front door so at least she would get stuck in the cul-de-sac of our backyard.
7. Cooperation & Emotions
Speaking of running away from home, you may not be getting the same Mom that you are used to when she moves in. For our family, and among many groups I follow, dementia can make a loved one difficult to live with.
Bad qualities may be exaggerated and even formerly sweet parents may turn surly or mean.
If you and your parent had a difficult relationship before moving them in, it will not get better with proximity and dementia.
For example, our Mom has always been impatient, and living alone for years she was used to everything running on her schedule. Yesterday a large box came in the mail for her and she was out on the front porch trying to wrangle in onto her walker because my husband didn’t get it into her room fast enough to suit her.
I have read of narcissistic parents bringing caregivers to tears on a daily basis after they moved in.
Again, not to talk to you out of moving Mom in, just letting you know of frustrations that you might have coming your way.
8. Emotional Drain
This seems like a great time to talk about the emotional drain of having someone with dementia living with you.
Anything you think you are ready for will probably not come close to time and energy it takes to care for someone who is not in their normal mental state.
Dementia is a disease that changes people and your loved one will have times when they are not the person you have known and loved for your whole life.
You will be worn down by parenting your parent. This is way different than parenting your children… they are conditioned to listen and mind you, your parent is used to being the one in charge.
FOR SURE you need to have a plan for getting help. For getting time away. For who you are going to call when you are at the end of your rope and just need a little break.
9. Other Family Members
This is not area of specialty since Mom is my husband’s mother and he is an only child. We don’t have to answer to anyone or take criticism for what we are doing.
That said, if you have to deal with spouses, siblings, or other family members, please try to get consensus before moving your Mom in!
This situation is hard on everyone and you don’t need the added stress of fighting with family on top of everything else you will be going through.
I recommend joining a Facebook group or in person caregiving group where you can ask questions and get advice on this topic!
10. Security & Monitoring
If you have a wandering loved one, security is going to be a big deal. Leaving doors and windows open is not a consideration that many dementia parents who wander worry about. Door alarms are a great way to know if your loved one has left the building.
But beyond that you may want to get a baby monitor or other device to listen while your Mom is in the other room! Bonus points if it has a camera so you can shut your door while you are sleeping and get a little privacy!
Our Mom slipped off her chair in her room and was on the floor for a while before we heard her calling out. Now we make her leave her door open so we can hear, but our house is set up so she is super close. If your Mom is in another part of the house, a good monitoring system might be a big help!
If you have pets, please be careful of them around your loved one. Overfeeding in an issue, but I have also heard of pets being harmed.
If your parent has a pet, there are some huge benefits to moving them in and also some drawbacks so it is worth a try to see if it will work with your home!
We had 2 dogs and 2 cats when Mom moved in with her dog and cat. You could tell that they were super excited to have regular feedings now that they live with us, and everyone gets along great so we are super fortunate.
Additional Resource: Should You Get Your Dementia Parent A Cat or a Dog
I saved some of the best for last. Whoa money is a big one for some families.
For us it is a pretty easy issue. My husband is Mom’s only child and we are fortunate enough that we don’t have to rely on Mom’s money to pay for household bills.
That said, in many families the caregiver has to give up work or reduce their hours to care for their Mom and this can cause financial hardships for the caregiver and her family.
If your Mom is going to have to contribute to the household with her Social Security or pension money keep good records of what has been spent on her care and food. She might accuse you of stealing her money so you want to make sure to be able to account for those expenditures.
Even more so if you are dealing with other family members. It is easy to look in from the outside and judge, having clear records is a way to eliminate a lot of those problems.
13. Crisis Days
Last but not least, let’s talk about when things go off the rails (which happens fairly often with dementia).
Your Mom may be having a bad day memory-wise, may be having delusions, suffer a fall or even may just have a huge “accident” in the bathroom.
There really are no “normal” days when you are caring for someone with dementia.
As with having little-little children, prepare for the fact that plans may have to change, things you may have loved doing before may not be possible for a while and you may need seek help from professionals, friends or family from time to time.
Moving Mom In With Us Wrapup
I am not sure that anyone with a dementia parent is totally surprised when they find out that they need to take in their Mom. Generally there are signs ahead of time like poor hygiene, falls, doctor problems or even wrecks when driving.
That said, it really was distressing to see how incapacitated and confused Mom is on a daily basis.
So one last big note…
Things agreed to before she moves in will be forgotten…sigh.
It is great to think that you can work some of the kinks out before your Mom moves in, but if she has dementia she probably has memory loss.
After Mom came to stay with us as she convalesced from the nursing home, it pretty quickly became apparent it was going to have to be for good.
My husband sat down with her and had a beautiful long talk about wanting to help her and keep her safe. They agreed she would move in and all was sunshine and roses…
…until 20 minutes later when she had forgotten that talk and everything that had been said and started asking when she was going to be able to move home again.
It might help to put everything down in writing and have your Mom sign it… not for legal reasons (it wouldn’t hold up in court), but to help her!
We did this with fish… Mom was sure she hated eating fish (we have it about once a week) so we had her sign a note that said she likes fish. It is only by showing her this that we can get her to try it every week!
This could help if your Mom has moments of clarity and can sign something that you could show her later. Doesn’t always work, but definitely worth a try (and might help save your sanity a little bit!)