Carer's guide to housing
When we’re caring for someone, the question of “where to live” is likely to pop up at some point.
It’s really important we understand the implications on our wellbeing, finances, and also on our future home and financial stability, if the caring situation changes in the future.
Questions like “Will I have somewhere to live if they pass away?” and “Are my finances protected if they go into a care home?” are important, as things can and do change in the future.
It's a big and emotional decision. So, let's hit pause for a quick breather, grab a cuppa, and take our pick from below:
Should I live with the person I care for?
Deciding whether to move in with Mum, Dad, or whoever we’re caring for requires a lot of careful consideration. We’re not just talking about sharing space here - it’s about merging lives and routines with possible implications on our finances and tenancy arrangements.
So before we take the leap, here are some helpful considerations:
The practical considerations of living with the person we care for
Are the living arrangements practical: First things first, let's consider the logistics. Are both of us comfortable with the physical space we'll share? Are there any modifications needed to accommodate their needs or ensure safety?
Do our day-to-day routines match: Think about our daily schedules. How do they align? Are there any major differences that might require adjustments? Harmonising schedules can make life smoother for both of us.
Can we meet their care needs: This is crucial. Can we handle their care needs? Can we manage medical appointments, medications, and any specialised care they require? Let's assess what we can handle and what might require outside help.
Who can help us: Let's consider our caring circle. Will we have access to assistance if needed? That includes friends, family, or professional carers who can step in and provide relief and support. We have tips on how to widen your caring circle.
What’s the impact on others: If we have children, a partner or friends living with us, we should consider how moving in the person we care for could disrupt them.
Are there benefits: Don’t just focus on the negatives though. Will living together cut down on time spent commuting to their home? Will we better be able to juggle our care role with our family and personal life? Will living together allow us to provide better hands-on care?
What’s our exit strategy: It might not be a nice thought, but it’s important to consider the future. Ahead of moving in, we need a rough plan in place if circumstances change and living together is no longer the best option.
This includes a plan for if they need to go into a care home, if they pass away or if the living arrangement simply breaks down. It's better to be prepared for any scenario.
The emotional considerations of living with the person we care for
Moving in isn't just about logistics though – it's a journey of emotions, both ours and theirs. We might feel excited about being closer and more involved, but there could also be a sense of anxiety or uncertainty about the unknown.
Here are some crucial emotional aspects to keep in mind:
Can we handle less personal space: Sharing a space means redefining our personal boundaries. While we might feel happy in being close to the person we care for, it can be difficult to lose our own personal space to relax and unwind. If we’re able to have an open conversation with the person we care for, it might be helpful to agree on a “me time” schedule. Time when we’ll be “on our own” or having “family time” guilt free.
“Have a proactive conversation together, before moving in. List how you think it will work. If possible ask the person you’re caring for to do the same. Consider what time and space you’ll have and what caring roles you can and can’t do. Who will cook or do hospital appointments, where will you each hang out at home - everything - really think it through and how each thing may make you feel - and what the solution may be. See if the lists match up. Go in with your eyes wide open if you can.” - Member of the Mobilise Community
Will it change our relationship: Sometimes it’s not something we see coming. But think about the emotional impact of moving into a shared space. Will moving back into a childhood home with a parent cause more friction?
Can we handle the caring burden: The reality of caring 24/7 might bring moments of exhaustion, overwhelm or even burnout. It can be harder to ‘switch off’ when we’re living with the person we care for. Can we truly handle this type of living situation? And do have the support on hand for difficult times?
“Be honest and upfront about needing time off, and discussing what this would look like and how it can happen. I burnt out - and regret not doing this.” - Member of the Mobilise Community
Will we need to take on more roles: Moving in together means our roles might shift. If we were not previously doing the ‘hands-on’ caring, or managing the admin - though emotionally rewarding - might come with challenges as we adapt to these changes.
Will we lose some independence: Over time, we might start to feel further and further away from who we once were. Feelings of guilt might creep up when we desire our own independence. What time will we have to do things that give us the spark?
Will it trigger old memories or traumas: Sharing a living space can lead to lots of new memories but might also bring forth nostalgic feelings related to the past. This could be positive or negative, depending on the relationship we share with the person we care for. It’s fair to say that some of us don’t always like the person we care for.
Are we emotionally resilient enough: As carers, it can feel like we’re expected to have a seemingly endless supply of emotional resilience. But at times, living together might test our emotional endurance. Whether it’s Mum asking the same question 100 times a day or Dad having a toilet accident, it's essential to acknowledge that our emotional wellbeing matters too.
Will we make time for our own self-care: When we’re spinning all our carer plates, we might struggle to practice self-care. We may have feelings of guilt about taking time for ourselves in the way we used to.
“In the past, my caring role had led me to feel very isolated, and it felt like this could happen again. Friends do stop getting in touch but some did stay in touch and I knew it was important to keep in contact with those that had reached out and not stay too much in my own bubble.” - Roxy, who cares for her sister.
How will the family react: Think about the risk of potential family conflicts. Especially if there are differing opinions on care decisions, household routines or personal boundaries. There may also be changes to property rights or finance, which may cause friction with other family members.
“My Mum wants to sell her house and use some of the proceeds to build an annex in our double garage. My step-brother is furious as he sees us as financially benefiting with our house value increasing.” - Member of the Mobilise Community
Will we enjoy a closer bond: Alongside the challenges, sharing a home can result in some lovely moments of connection, laughter and bonding. These moments can help us be more present, and better come to terms with a difficult diagnosis or changing health situation.
“It felt a bit bumpy at first as bringing her [my sister] home was not something we had planned for, but we are moving forwards now.” - Roxy, who cares for her sister.
Financial considerations of moving in with the person we care for
Alright, let's talk numbers and money. Moving in with the person we care for isn't just an emotional decision – it's a step that can have a significant impact on our monthly costs and our future financial stability.
Here's a closer look at how this move could affect us financially:
How will we share the expenses: Sharing a home means sharing expenses. We might need to both contribute to rent, utility bills, groceries, and other household costs. It's important to discuss how these expenses will be divided. Who will be the ‘named’ person under any formal financial arrangements? For guidance on splitting household costs and charging the person we care for, read our comprehensive guide to money and caring.
What’s the added cost of care: Depending on the care needs of the other person, there could be additional costs involved. This might include medical expenses, medications, specialised equipment, or home modifications to ensure their safety and comfort. We might be entitled to benefits that help, but we’ll need to research these so we can be sure what’s left to pay.
Will it affect our income: If we need to adjust our working hours or take time off to provide care, our income could be affected. This change might require us to reassess our budget and make necessary adjustments. If we reduce our working hours, we might be eligible for benefits such as Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Credit.
Before making any decisions about work, it might be worth reading our guide to “Can I care and work?”, which includes information on earning limits and legal rights in the workplace.
Do we need extra paid support: We might require additional help, such as hiring a professional carer or seeking respite care to prevent burnout. These services come with a cost that needs to be factored into our financial planning. Again, we may be entitled to benefits and grants, so it’s worth checking out what’s available using the Mobilise Financial Checklist.
Future financial impact
How does it impact our financial opportunities: Moving in to provide care could mean sacrificing other opportunities, such as certain career paths or personal goals. Have we weighed up the potential impact on our long-term financial plan?
There could be legal costs: When we’re caring for someone with health needs, their legal and financial matters might need attention. This could include updating legal documents like wills, trusts and powers of attorney. There could be extra costs for these legal processes.
Will it open us up to a housing liability or vulnerability: Living together may also open us up to a housing vulnerability (practically or financially) if they later go into a care home or pass away.
Things to consider include:
Whose name is on the tenancy agreement?
Who inherits the property?
Has there been equity release?
Are our finances protected from a care home assessment for the person we care for?
We have more information on this in our guides:
Will I have somewhere to live, and how can I protect my assets, if the person I care for goes into a home or passes away?
I’m a carer facing homelessness, what now?
How does it impact our tax situation: Living arrangements can have tax implications. Depending on regulations, we might need to consider how our living situation affects our tax status and potential deductions.
Can we build an emergency fund: As carers, we might need an emergency fund more than ever. This is a pot of savings stashed away for any unexpected expenses that may arise. Having a safety net is crucial not just for our stability, but for theirs too.
As with most things, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. The decision will depend on our individual situations and needs.
Feel free to connect with other carers in our caring community, where they can share valuable tips from their own experiences.
Practical tips for making living together work
If we’ve decided to move in, we’ll want to think about the type of environment we’d like to live in. Sharing space can be a rewarding experience, but it can also bring up some big emotions.
Here are some practical tips for creating a living environment that works:
Communicate openly: Communication is key to understanding each other's needs and boundaries. We should regularly check in to make sure these are being met.
“We have a ‘things that went well this week’ and ‘things that were hard this week’ chat. It can get a little tense sometimes, but we try to keep the emotions out of it and just state the facts. Overall it’s been really helpful.” - Member of the Mobilise Community
Have supportive people around you: Build a caring circle of friends, family, or other carers who can provide emotional support, step in to help for a few hours, or even just a glass of wine and an ear to listen when we need it! Agree on roles that everyone will have - from the weekly shop to cleaning, to hospital appointments. Who is doing what, in order to make this work?
Remember to factor in our own self-care: Caring for someone else can be full-on. Our guide, ‘How to care for yourself when there’s no time’ includes simple tips to set aside some time for self-care each week, where we can.
“Put stuff you like in the diary. It’s a non-negotiable for me. Keeping me well is as important as keeping them well. I’m also much nicer if I’m still having my own fun.” - Member of the Mobilise Community
Channel moments of frustration through therapeutic means: Such as sports, gardening, journaling, or going for a walk when we can.
“Journalling is great for me - especially when I’m moaning about something. If I write about the same things for a few days in a row, I get bored of myself, and work out how I can solve the problem myself.” - Member of the Mobilise Community
Practice listening and empathy: Being patient and compassionate with one another can help to reduce moments of frustration.
Seek professional help if we need it: Don't feel embarrassed to seek professional help if we encounter challenges beyond what we can reasonably cope with. Therapy or counselling can provide lots of helpful guidance and support.
Hacks (resources) to make living together a bit easier
We love a hack that can save us time and worry! Having practical systems and routines, such as medication reminders, can reduce stressful moments.
Here are some really great apps and resources that can make living together that little bit easier.
If we’re moving in and want to split bills and expenses fairly, Splitwise can help. It tracks who owes what and keeps a balance sheet, making it easier to manage shared expenses. Available on iOS, Android and desktop. If we have Monzo, we can simply used the ‘shared tab’.
Trello is a task management tool that can help us organise chores, responsibilities and to-do lists. We can create boards for different categories and assign tasks across our carer circle. Available on iOS, Android and desktop.
Managing finances is crucial when sharing a space. GoodBudget helps us create budgets, track expenses, and stay on top of our spending. Available on iOS and Android.
For scheduling and coordination, Google Calendar is a great option. We can create shared calendars, set reminders, and sync schedules easily. Available on iOS, Android and desktop.
The NHS app provides a range of services, including booking appointments, ordering prescriptions, and accessing health information. It's a handy tool for managing healthcare needs. Available on iOS and Android.
We might want to check out the best smartphone apps for busy carers.
A kitchen whiteboard
Use a whiteboard/magnet to keep track of needed groceries, plan meals together or simply have it there to jot down any important information (like phone numbers and call reminders).
We can also use it to keep track of everyone's schedules. Write down appointments, work shifts, and other commitments to ensure everyone is aware of each other's plans.
What are the alternatives to moving in with the person I care for?
For some of us, moving in together might not be the best option. Some alternatives we might want to consider include:
Paid care at home
Sometimes, the best option is to receive care and assistance right in the comfort of our own home. Paid home care services are there for the elderly, those recovering from an injury, or living with disabilities. These services have a wide range of support, from help with daily tasks like dressing and cooking to housekeeping.
Opting for paid care at home allows the person we care for to maintain their independence and feel comfortable at home. We can visit the NHS website to search for local home care services.
Thinking about putting the person we care for in a care home isn’t an easy task. But if that time comes, and they need a more structured living arrangement that provides (both safety and comfort) care homes are a practical choice.
These homes offer both private and shared rooms (for couples or relatives), creating an environment where they’ll receive not only the necessary medical care but also help with daily activities. Read our guide to finding a care home for more guidance and support on costs.
Supported Living and Shared Lives
Supported Living is different from a care home. It’s a type of housing that’s designed to provide people with physical or learning disabilities the opportunity to live independently in their own homes or shared apartments while receiving support.
Supported living is typically paid for through a combination of government benefits, social care budgets and our own money. We can visit the NHS website to find supported living options near us.
Shared Lives schemes are a bit different. They support adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems or other challenges that inhibit them from living alone. The scheme matches the person we care for with a personal carer, and often people move in with their carer for 24/7 care support. We can visit the NHS website to search for services near us.
A final word…
As we’ve explored, the decision to move in with the person we care for isn't merely a practical or financial one – it's an emotional one too.
For some of us, we’re able to have some time to weigh out the pros and cons before committing. And unfortunately for others, we might be thrown into the deep end pretty fast.
Cultural norms and family expectations may also weigh on our decision too, and we may end up asking ourselves, if was it even a choice. During these times, it becomes important to carve out moments of mini respite and self-care, ensuring that our living situation not only benefits the person we care for but also nurtures our own wellbeing.
With this in mind, setting ourselves up for success is really important, and hopefully, the topics we’ve covered can help here.
Lastly, if moving in together doesn't seem like the right fit for whatever reason, know that there are alternatives to explore. From paid care at home to supported living and shared lives schemes, a range of options cater to different circumstances.
Ultimately, every carer's story is different and no one knows the nuances of our situation better than us. So, we should trust our instincts on this one.
But remember that we’re never alone – our online caring community is here to provide support every step of the way.