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 health 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. You can have more time together and have peace of mind that 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.
Financial and legal considerations
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.
Make sure everyone is clear about their rights and responsibilities. You could sign a written agreement detailing 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, it's a good idea to get legal advice. Visit the Citizens Advice website for help on looking after people.
If you're moving in with the person you care for, check whether this affects your own benefits, if you have them. Tell whoever pays your benefit about a change in circumstances. For example, if you are currently claiming Housing Benefit, find your local council and contact them.
If the person wants to gift you their home, there are legal and practical implications to consider. Read this Which? Later Life Care guide on the legal transfer of property.
Most carers are entitled to an assessment of their own needs to 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.
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 or housing association may help you pay for this.
You should consider how day-to-day living arrangements would work and how other people living in the house might be affected.
Also think about 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 have to move to a care home for a while, how would another stressful move affect them?
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 in your home. Agree 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 needs assessment will decide whether they can get help from 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 better for them, including:
- sheltered or retirement housing
- housing with care (extra care housing)
- care homes
- staying with friends
Sheltered housing or retirement housing
There are many different types of sheltered or retirement housing to rent or buy through local councils, housing associations and the private market. Most sheltered or 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 help is at 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 (extra care housing)
Housing with care, also known as extra care housing, is specialised housing for older people.
Housing with care properties can be rented, owned, or part-owned or part-rented. They're self-contained homes, with 1 or 2 bedrooms, and provide support as and when it's needed.
Types of services and facilities vary and may include, for example, 24-hour staffing, personal care and domestic help.
Care homes provide either personal care, nursing care and/or dementia care. They provide a room, often with en-suite facilities, communal areas, and services including meals, help with medication and 24-hour support.
If the local council is responsible for meeting the needs of the person you care for, the person has a right to choose, within reason, the care home they live in. However, if the person wants to choose a care home that's more expensive than the one the council would choose, the person will need to meet the extra cost. Read more about local authority funding for care.
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.
Read more about when the council might pay your care.