Can a homeshare help my parent feel less lonely?
Can homesharing be an answer to the growing epidemic of loneliness and depression that is affecting our older population? We asked a homeshare expert, Sam Brandman of Two Generations, about how homesharing works in practice, and how we can make it work for our parents.
What is a homeshare?
A homeshare arrangement brings together a Householder, who would like some companionship, with a friendly younger person (‘homesharer’) who is seeking affordable accommodation and is very happy to provide some household help. The arrangement helps to combat social isolation and loneliness, alongside the often unaffordable cost of rent.
Making the decision
How would my parent as a householder benefit?
Your parent would be matched with exactly the type of homesharer that would suit their needs. Some householders might just be seeking a presence in their home, some companionship and little else. Others might ask for specific help with household chores, for example, maintaining their garden, helping with their pet, or day-to-day tasks such as washing or shopping.
As an example, our homesharers provide 15 hours per month of household support, but this can be tailored based on the needs of the householder. You might be looking for someone with shared hobbies, ethnicity or culture and all of this can be found through bespoke matches.
Shouldn’t I be worried letting a stranger live in my parent’s home?
A good homeshare organisation will ensure that safety is absolutely key to every match. Every homesharer should go through a rigorous vetting process, including police checks, references and interviews. Although the concept of homeshare is not that well known in the UK, you could compare it to having a carer or an au pair – ideas that we are very used to here.
In the case of Two Generations, we also put a trial period is in place for the first month, during which time your parent can get to know their housemate better, and the family will be supported through any concerns you have.
My parent lives a long way away and is clearly lonely. How do I persuade them to try out a homeshare, or is it wrong to try to talk someone into it who’s not keen?
We would never suggest encouraging your parents to do something unless they are comfortable. However, the key might be breaking it down so it’s less overwhelming. Would they be open to meeting someone from a homeshare organisation just for a discussion and to discuss their worries?
Would they want to understand a bit more about the type of people who might apply to live with them? Providing more information is key but it’s important that they want to go along with the process and feel fully involved with all decision making.
How much does it cost?
It’s really important to us that no householder is prevented from benefiting from companionship for financial reasons. Our standard householder cost is £49 per month, and we have financial assistance schemes available for those unable to afford the fee. This includes all the upfront working to match you and the ongoing support through the duration of your homeshare.
Making the arrangement work
My parent has agreed to someone coming to live in their home, but they avoid each other most of the time. Is this a sign that it’s not working, or do we just need to give them a while to get used to each other?
This depends what your parent is seeking from the homeshare. Some householders specifically say they want little conversation and just want the presence of someone being in the home, but if this is not the case for your parent and they feel that the householder is avoiding them then it would be important for someone from the homeshare service to come out and offer support to understand a little about what’s going on. This may be just some initial nerves and awkwardness that can easily be resolved.
What if my parent tells us they’re having problems with their homesharer and don’t know how to manage them?
This is a good time to go back to the homeshare organisation, who should be providing ongoing support by phone, and can come to the house to facilitate conversations to keep the homeshare going smoothly.
Setting the boundaries
Where is the line over which homesharers will not travel? Presumably no personal care, but what about taking charge of sorting out medical appointments, for example?
At a simple level, medical care can only be done by a qualified professional such as a carer. Our homesharers have many skills but are not qualified to do this. Some may offer some form of help (because they’re lovely people who want to help out!), but ultimately they couldn’t be relied upon to do this or be held responsible. Where medical support is required, we usually suggest getting a low-level care solution in parallel with a homesharer, which both costs far less and can give you peace of mind.
What happens to the homeshare arrangement if my parent spends time in hospital, or has to go into a nursing home after hospital for some weeks?
If it’s a few weeks, then normally the homesharer would remain in the property. This can be hugely beneficial, for example, making sure the property is clean and tidy when you parent returns! This would all be discussed in the initial meeting and written into the paperwork. If a longer (or permanent) period of absence is looking likely, then notice can be given. As an example, we operate a general 1 month notice period after the first 6 months.
The onset of dementia can be slow but insidious and I worry that being far away I may not notice it. Would homesharers know how to look out for it? And would they know what to do if they suspected it? Or is this placing too much responsibility on their shoulders?
The responsibility for detecting dementia would not fall in any way on a homesharer or homeshare organisation. As discussed above, they are not qualified health professionals.
Therefore whilst we encourage our homesharers to speak to us regarding any concerns, they are not responsible for monitoring the health condition of your parent.
There are many ways where the presence of a householder and the companionship they provide can be very beneficial for a householder with dementia, or other health condition, and this can also be alongside the support of qualified carers.
For example, if your parent already has dementia, or any other health condition, this is something that should be discussed in the initial meeting, both in terms of how it manifests, and how the homesharer would be encouraged to communicate with them. The homeshare service would also provide non-medical support with this and be sharing any information with family members.