More than 65 million Americans look after a disabled, seriously ill, or elderly friend or relative, spending around 20 hours each week caring for them. When your relative or friend is seriously ill, you might be the only suitable person to look after them. In fact, you may already be providing them with care in their home. But there may come a time when you consider moving them into your own home. There are many benefits for someone with a serious illness moving in with a relative. It stops the feelings of isolation that are common with serious illness or disabilities. It also removes the pressures of running a house and coping if their condition deteriorates. But importantly, if they do have a terminal illness, it also allows you to spend more quality time with them in their final months.

Ask yourself some simple questions

Caring for someone, even if there's no other option, is a huge undertaking, especially when it's in your own home. You should think carefully about what impact it will have on you and your family. Ask yourself these questions first:

  • Do you feel well and fit enough to be able to care for someone? Can you change your routine, including sleeping patterns?
  • Will you have to drop your working hours? Will you cope financially on a lower income? Over a caregiver’s lifetime, it’s estimated that lost income and benefits will total $303,880.
  • What might happen in the future if the person needs more care?
  • You can't always predict how long someone will require care. Can you commit to weeks, months, or even years?

Is your home suitable?
You mustn't just focus on the care that the person will need, but the environment they will need, too. Ideally, they should have a room with washing facilities on the lower floor, so they don't have to climb stairs. Or could a stair lift help? Before they move in, you should consider how safe your home is, including assessing whether there are any trip hazards. Could they injure themselves? It's crucial that you make a list of all potential safety concerns around the home and tackle every one.

But don't forget to look after yourself, too
Your priority right now might be looking after your relative or friend, but you need to care for yourself too. If possible, try to give yourself a break now and again, even if it's just a bit of gardening, a short walk, or a trip to the gym. You may not be able to see them as much, but you should still try to keep in touch with friends and family. You never know when you may need your own support network around you.

--by Sally P.