What if one of your elderly loved ones has to head for the hospital unexpectedly? Or an aging parent not-so-unexpectedly needs to move in? While none of us knows what the future will bring, it is important for us to look at the “signs” of the season and factor those into our plans as many of these changes can lead to a necessary move. Here's a helpful checklist for the Sandwich Generation caring for elderly parents to help winnow out the inappropriate properties as we go out apartment or house hunting in the area we are preparing to relocate to. Some of the things to think about and plan around include:
- Easily accessible bathrooms – downstairs and near an aging parent’s bedroom. Even if they are not yet living with you, if the possibility exists, this is definitely something to look for.
- Safe Stairs – even if your senior parent can currently navigate them, down the road it may become more of an issue. Regardless of whether you live in an area where single story homes are easy or hard to come by, you still need to think about depth and width of stairs. A good friend of mine bought the most adorable older house. Well kept up and selling for a great price, they were thrilled to get it. They still love it, but have since realized the stairs are older and much more narrow than today’s stairs making it much easier to trip on them. Young and agile, they’ve still taken a couple of tumbles. Their older parents have not fallen, but avoid them as much as possible. Also, make sure the stairs have hand railings that go all the way up. I’ve found several houses recently where the railings only go part way making them a bit more dangerous.
- Wheelchair-friendly halls, doorways, and bathrooms. Check the measurements needed for the biggest wheelchairs and walkers you can find. I would even look at the sizes of a motorized wheelchair along with some of the popular electric powered medical mobility scooters. Even if your aging parents aren’t using them now, someday that could easily change.
- Grandkid-friendly yards complete with fences. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to buy an existing fence than to have to install one, that’s for sure! And you know you want those little darlins over often and safely! 🙂
- Air conditioning / heating – The Baby Boomers Generation women may be headed for menopause, while aging parents might be at the season of life where they are freezing when the thermostat says 80! There are many houses out there with NO air conditioning! (Can you tell I visited one such house this summer 🙂 ). On the positive side, there are also properties with two sets of thermostats, enabling you to keep one part of the house warmer than the other – a definite boon to the Sandwich Generation dealing with these varied issues.
- Yards that require a lot of maintenance – more than upcoming caregiving duties might allow. I used to love my 40+ rose bushes. Fortunately, I lived in an area that made growing roses a piece of cake. When my dad’s Parkinson’s Disease symptoms started to worsen, my roses looked fine even when I quit having fun “babying” them. Now that I’m on the East Coast, I’ve learned that not all localities are as rose-friendly! I would definitely think twice about buying property with so many rose bushes if I thought my Sandwich Generation caregiving duties were going to be increasing anytime soon. Large lawns needing lots of mowing, weeding, etc. would fall into that same category for me. How about for you?
- Houses that need more fixing than your caregiving schedule will allow. When we were younger, a fixer-upper seemed do-able. Now that I’m older, wiser, slower, and achy-er, I know that’s probably not the wisest option for me right now. And that doesn’t even take into account extra caregiving chores!
Well, that’s my checklist for Sandwich Generation house and apartment hunting. (It's not bad for basement remodeling and room additions too! 🙂 ) How about you? Have you had to relocate while planning for senior parents? Do you have some ideas to add to this? I’d love to do a follow-up article with more items. 🙂