If you care for someone who doesn’t live with you, the time may come when you start thinking about sharing your home with them. This might be because they'll need more care in the future if their condition gets worse, or they've recently come out of hospital after an illness or fall.
There can be many benefits to welcoming someone you care for into your home. Not only can you enjoy having more time together, you can also benefit from the peace of mind that comes with knowing they’re not on their own.
However, it’s important to think about your relationship with the person you care for. If the relationship has been strained in the past, it's likely to become more difficult if you share a home.
For advice and support when taking this decision, you could call the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053 to talk through your situation.
Financial and legal considerations with sharing a home
When you share your home, there may be legal and financial considerations, particularly if the person you care for has sold their house to move in with you, and is contributing towards the costs of your home. The number of people living in your home, and their income, can affect your benefits and Council Tax discounts.
Make sure that everyone is clear about their rights and responsibilities. You could sign a written agreement, which details who pays which bills, and what will happen if the person you care for stops living with you. If you draw up an agreement of this kind, you might want to get legal advice. See the Citizens Advice Bureau website.
If you are moving in with the person you care for, you also need to check whether this impacts your own benefits, if you have them. You should tell whoever pays your benefit about a change in circumstances – for example, if you are currently claiming Housing Benefit, you’ll need to tell your local council.
If the person wants to gift you their home, there are legal and practical implications to consider, as this guide on the legal transfer of property from Which? Elderly Care shows.
Most carers are entitled to an assessment of their own needs, which will determine whether social services should help them. Help with care may also be available from other sources, such as voluntary organisations or other family members.
Practical considerations with sharing your home
Think about whether your home is suitable for the person you care for. For example, if they use a wheelchair, do you have stairs or a lift? You may have to adapt your home
. Your local authority may help you pay for this.
Consider how day-to-day living arrangements would work, and how other people living in the house might be affected.
What might happen in the future? Is the person you look after likely to need more care? If so, will it be practical for you to provide more care in your home?
It's not always possible to know how long somebody may need care. It could be weeks or years. Can you commit to this?
If their condition got worse, for example, and they had to move to a care home for a while, how would another stressful move affect them?
If the person you care for is meeting the costs of their care, this could have implications for how much they are asked to contribute. For example if they decide to sell their home.
If the person you care for is used to having their own independence and privacy, they're likely to want to continue that. Privacy may also be important to you and other people who live in your home. Agree to some ground rules before the move takes place.
Options other than sharing your home
If the person you look after would like to stay in their own home, they might be able to get help that would enable them to continue living independently. A community care assessment will decide whether they can be assisted by social services.
If the person you look after finds it difficult to live on their own, you could both look at other housing options that might be more appropriate.
Sheltered housing or retirement housing
There are many different types of sheltered/retirement housing to rent and to buy, through local authorities and housing associations and in the private market. Most sheltered/retirement housing schemes have a warden or scheme manager, and an emergency alarm service.
This type of housing appeals to people who like living independently but want the reassurance of knowing that there is assistance on hand. Although wardens don't usually provide care, they can direct residents to local services and any additional support available from the local authority or voluntary organisations.
Housing with Care or extra care housing
Housing with Care, also known as extra care housing, is a relatively new form of specialised housing for older people. Housing with Care properties can be rented, owned and part-owned/part-rented. They are self-contained homes, with one or two bedrooms, and are designed to provide enough support as and when it is needed. Types of services and facilities will vary, and may include, for example, 24-hour staffing, personal care and domestic help.
Care homes are accommodation focused on providing care, either personal care, nursing care and/or dementia care. They will provide a room, often with ensuite facilities, communal areas, and services will include meals, help with medication, and 24 hour support. If the person’s local authority is responsible for meeting their needs, they have a right to choose the care home they live in.
However, if they wish to choose a care home that is more expensive than the one the local authority would choose, they can, but the extra cost of that care home would need to be met. In 2015/16 this will need to be by a third party, such as family, friends or a charity. From 2016/17, when the point at which means-tested support for the costs of care is raised, this could be by the person themselves.
This is because currently a person can only top up their own care home fees if they have a deferred payment agreement (DPA) in place or are benefiting from a 12-week “property disregard” (this is where a person’s property has been included in the person’s financial assessment, but its value is disregarded for the first 12 weeks they are in a care home so they have some space to decide whether they want to sell it or apply for a DPA). From 2016 these restrictions will be removed.
Staying with friends
Staying with friends may be an option while someone looks for temporary or permanent housing. A friend is likely to be more aware of the person's needs and situation. But if this is an informal arrangement, there will be no legal contract in place, and the person has no rights to stay there.
Which? Elderly Care has a guide for people thinking about sharing their home with a relative.
Which? Elderly Care also offers advice on talking to your relative about care options.