3 Alternatives to Nursing Homes

Written by | Updated December 13, 2013

Are you part of the “Sandwich Generation?” The term refers to parents who themselves have at least one parent over 65.

Already nearing half of the population of 40 and 50 somethings, this group becomes a majority, when you add in those without children but with parents of retirement age or older.

Among other things, this means sooner or later you’ll need to have the “nursing home” talk. It can be uncomfortable but necessary, as taking care of themselves, maintaining the house and staying on top of the bills takes more of a toll every year. Even when aging parents can remain financially independent, there remains increasingly critical issues of health care and increased risk.

Although a change may certainly need to be made, moving to a nursing home is not the only option. Taking into consideration your parent’s safety and self-sufficiency, and your own level of involvement and investment, a full-time, full-care facility may end up being the least useful option. Here are three great alternatives.

1. Moving in With Children

Considering bringing parents into your home or moving your family to your parents’ home? You’re not alone. Because of economic and ethnic changes over the past decade, one in six US households are “multigenerational” or extended family households. From boomers to millennials, parents and adult children are more likely than ever to live together under one roof.

Elderly Parent Living With Child

Pros: There’s no better solution when it comes to immediate personal involvement. Both you and your parents are now old enough to truly appreciate the time you have left together, and someone will always be nearby for immediate decisions and emergencies. And, in many cases, the cost savings may be considerable.

Cons: This probably goes without saying, but living together can be frustrating and challenging, especially when everyone is used to their own habits and space. You’ll need to take a hard look at yourself to be objective about whether you’re qualified to provide the level of care they need (or whether you’ll be comfortable doing all it entails). Plus, when expenses, like specialized home care and equipment are factored in, you may still be spending more than you’re saving.

Whether you become a housemate or a caregiver, sharing a space solves many problems. But don’t forget you need support too; for a wealth of resources, AARP’s caregiver pages are a great place to start.

2. Relocating and Downsizing

Assisted living doesn’t automatically mean nursing home. There’s a whole range of living options for seniors who wish to maintain as much independence as possible, ranging from self-sufficient retirement communities to full-care facilities. If all that’s needed is neighborly support and availability of services, consider simply helping parents relocate to a house, townhouse or apartment in an age-restricted community. More involved residences may come with options for basic assistance such as housecleaning and meals, or more extensive services such as transportation and on-call health care.


Pros: With such a wide range of services, you can find the perfect combination of independence and attention. Aging homeowners can see clear advantages from downsizing to a more manageable and cost-effective residence, especially one that provides community and care benefits.

Cons: Although affordable options and assistance does exist, you’ll pay more for more professional services, and for more peace of mind. Plus, moving is one of the most stressful things any of us can do, especially at an age when stress and recovery are more serious concerns.

For more local resources, check out the federal Administration on Aging portal.

3. Staying Home and Adding More Security

As long as parents are truly self-sufficient, staying in the home may be the healthiest thing for them. You can’t underestimate the benefits of remaining in a familiar environment, whether it’s the comfort of your own home or the community you’ve known for decades. And if they do need assistance, there are many choices of in-home services that provide everything from basic housekeeping and handyman help to live-in specialized medical attention.


Pros: Emotionally, this is the best solution for self-sufficient seniors with minor to moderate health concerns. There’s no added cost, stress of moving, or of getting used to a new place. They’re likely to have friends and family nearby, as well as familiarity with all of the local services and, at the very least, they’ll know their way around.

Cons: If you’re considering alternatives to nursing homes, it’s probably because you have reason to question your parent’s self-sufficiency. Both you and they may be likely to downplay the severity of the situation; you both want to believe they can take care of themselves, even if the evidence says the time has come for a change.

If staying put is the best option for your parents, you’ll gain safety and peace of mind with some kind of remote monitoring system. The SafeWise home security system finder tool can help you choose the security provider that offers a pendant option that keeps your parents connected to emergency services.

Written by Hillary Johnston

A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more

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