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What to Do When Your Aging Parents Have Different Health Care Needs

Even if your parents have different health care needs, they may still be able to live together. Learn more about the benefits of moving to a community!

Caring for Aging Parents with Different Health Care Needs

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 72% of men and 48% of women over the age of 65 currently live with a spouse or partner. When they start looking into senior living, many of those couples want to continue living together, which can seem like a difficult proposition if they have different health care needs. If they remain in a house, often one spouse becomes a caregiver to the other, a very taxing role for anyone to take on, especially in later years.

As adult children look to ensure the health and well-being of both aging parents, it helps to understand the situation thoroughly in order to determine the next step. Here are four important questions to consider:

1. How Important Is Staying Together?

Many times, a couple’s wish not to be separated leads one spouse to continue in the caregiver role long after it is feasible. Adult children want both their aging parents to receive the care they need without one parent overexerting themselves. If the couple’s goal is to stay together, a good place to start your search is senior living communities with a continuum of care. That way, they can each receive the support they need on the same campus.

2. What Are Their Different Health Care Needs?

A comprehensive health assessment by a geriatrician or a primary care doctor can help outline what type of care each spouse needs now and what they’re likely to need in the coming years. Is one healthy enough for independent living? Could they both benefit from assisted living support? Does one require specialized memory care? Once you have that information, you can narrow your search to only those senior living communities that offer the necessary levels of care.

3. What Is Their Budget?

Their availability of funds will help determine what type of residence(s) would be right for them. Within the same community, the couple could live together in the same assisted living residence or live on the same campus in two apartments. Often, if one spouse requires memory care, the other spouse isn’t permitted to live with them in the memory care neighborhood. But in a community with a continuum of care, they can be just an elevator ride or a short walk away.

When determining budget, consider the full financial picture. You can speak with a financial adviser as well as the retirement community and ask about:

4. What Will Be the New Relationship Dynamics?

If one parent is transitioning from being the primary caregiver, it may be beneficial to talk about how roles will change in this new setting. If they seem anxious, you can assure them that their knowledge and input are still very important. They’re simply stepping into more of an advocate role as opposed to bearing the full burden of care themselves. You might also encourage them to take time to focus on their own self-care. With expert support for their spouse, they can spend more energy tending to their own needs and experiencing the added benefits of living in a community.

Senior living communities are an invaluable resource when caring for aging parents who require different levels of care. Many can create solutions that allow spouses to remain together in a variety of circumstances.

To find a trusted community near you, use our community locator tool and search by the type of care your loved ones need.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. News & World Report