For many adults, the reality of caring for aging parents hits home much sooner than they anticipated. You go from watching your parent’s age, still feeling like they are invincible to realizing there comes a time when they need help. Suddenly, your life can be turned upside down – forcing you to make decisions about their care and wellbeing that are most often based on the heart rather than common sense. It’s one thing to be beacon in your aging parents life, helping them mow grass, keep up with the home and driving them places when they need it. But for caring for your aging parents when they no longer can care for themselves at all – is both painful and punctuated with stress.
Many people fail to plan for these years of their life. They may not have enough financial stability to sustain their life in a nursing home or retirement community. When this is the case, the financial burdens of taking in another family member can also be overwhelming. For many, this comes at a time when you are paying college tuitions or finally retaining control of your own life without raising a family; making things even more difficult. Still, around 2/3rds (even higher by some statistics) show that grown children are often the number one caregiver for their aging parents.
Caring for Aging Parents – Can You Accommodate them?
The first thing to decide is whether or not you can meet their needs. If you have a full time job that you are unable to quit, moving mom and dad in with you may not be the simple answer. Even if you choose to build them a wing on your own home, you still have to worry about daily care while you are out of the house. If they are suffering from a serious medical condition that requires constant medications or care – than hiring a nurse in home has to be considered as part of the plan. Additionally, you may have to make accommodations in your home to in order to make things easier. Wheel chair ramps and finding space can present problems if you have small living quarters. It isn’t reasonable to set up a bed in the living room or garage for an aging parent. You also cannot just give over your own room – especially because you never fully know how long this arrangement will last.
If you want to care for your aging parents, and keep them out of retirement or nursing communities – coming up with a renovation plan can be a good option. Many senior citizens have planned for this day, and they may have financial means to help with building on a suite to your home so that you can remain the pivotal person in your aging parent’s life. This is a great solution, especially if your parents are simply aging – but are still of decent health and mind. Considering the state of their health, the size of your home, and the time availability that you have to ensure their needs must be considered. If you cannot do it all yourself, then negotiating time with other siblings or finding local nurses or sitters to fill in for you, should be fully researched prior to making the decision.
Is Family ALWAYS Best? Caring for Aging Parents
It is common phenomena to hear of an aging parent’s illness or need and rush in with tears swelling your eyes in order to save the day. You can meet with doctors, even talk with them, and start making decisions based on the heart. You may feel absolutely certain that you want to be the one to care for your aging parents, to show them the same sort of love and nurturing that you have always showed them. It is painful to watch your parents age, to see their demise slowly but surely after they have been a stellar of strength your entire life. The grown child, from the outside seems like the perfect solution to caring for the elderly. Yet, geriatric doctors don’t always agree. Why?
For many of these people being cared for by their grown children, medical care and treatment is necessary on a daily basis. What they often find is that these grown children are often prone to over medicating their parents. Not on purpose of course, but because they are so extremely close to these people that they overlook what is medically best in order to feel like they are giving their parents relief and comfort. Often in these situations, medical conditions are overlooked in an attempt for the caregivers to indulge or ‘spoil’ their parents. They don’t want to see them denied anything they want, they don’t want them to feel any pain, they don’t want them to be in distress – so they make decisions from their heart that don’t necessarily help. One patient being cared for by her daughter, recovering from chemotherapy and radiation returned to the hospital to have surgery so full of pain medications – that surgeons had to wait two weeks for her blood to recover before they could operate.
Chances are – you love your parents more than any one else. The thought of them in a nursing home is heart breaking. However, if you decide to care of your aging parents – you must remain committed to their treatment as well. You must realize that doctors and nurses have their best interests in mind and prescribe medications and special diets for a reason! Before you decide to take care of your parents, have an honest and hard look at your personality and make sure that you will be able to follow rules.
What if Your Parents Don’t Want to Stay With You?
Another thing is that some aging parents don’t want to stay with their kids. They may not want to be a burden, they may have made other plans, or quite honestly…they may not like your spouse or children that much. This can be hurtful to you of course and you may not be able to persuade them otherwise. The immediate assumption is that when our parents need us, we want them to want us as well – but some don’t. An article in Senior Citizens Magazine indicated that out of 1250 seniors polled, only 23% actually wanted to go live with their children. They cited many reasons, however most did not want their children to feel the burden of their care.
One of the problems when it comes to caring for aging parents, is that many families just don’t discuss it. You may not have any real idea what your parents have planned for themselves, understand their wishes or have been a part of the decision making process. Every family operates a little differently. It would be beneficial if people would discuss these issues with their parents, long before it becomes time to make a decision. This way, both you and them – could feel good about future plans and be left with a road map that ensures continuous care. Understandably, talking about your parents getting older or sick – is not a fun thing. However, it is a reality. As many as 87% of all adults need assisted living as they age, and 23% can end up in hospital nursing homes with constant 24-hour care.
Caring for Aging Parents – What are the Options?
As your parents get older, you and they should consider the options. If you feel strongly that you want them to be and stay with you – then plan making is necessary. You have to come up with a concrete plan. If for whatever reason, you are unable to care for them – exploring options for nursing homes, retirement homes or even in-home round the clock services should be undertaken. Many seniors do not want to leave their own home. Exploring the option of moving in with your parents in order to help them is another idea.
Check out local resources. Obviously, you want your parents to be close to you. Visit places that they may be interested in staying in, see what pricing is, and see what sort of insurance they can take. Also, do a lot of research about the reputation of these places before placing your parents in one of them. Nursing home abuse has become prevalent. Take your parents with you. If you still want them to stay with you – continuously make that clear in the hopes that they will make that decision.
Round the clock care for a parent can be expensive. If you name yourself as the number one caregiver – you are in for a lot of work. You will be woken up day and night, continuously on call and often stranded in your home without any chance of leaving. You too will need help and support along the way. Sure, you think you can handle it based on love alone – but you need to remain healthy as well. Caregiver burnout is tremendously common and you can quickly be overcome with the ramifications of your responsibility. You should contact hospice networks if appropriate and find sitters or nurses that can provide you with relief. Whatever you do, realize that you are no longer a spring chicken yourself and that you too, will need help. You also should join one of the many support groups offered in your area that will network you with people who are doing the same thing as you. Don’t forget your own social life – and make sure you can recognize your own stress triggers about when you need a break. Your first response will be to feel guilty about this…but you are only human.
If you have siblings, the care you decide for an aging apparent should be discussed by all of you. Even if you are all scattered across the country – care arrangement should be inclusive. You should ask for help, both in person or financial. There is no need to turn the care of your parents into a competition of who is the better child. This will only add stress to an already stressful issue. If your siblings don’t share your opinion about something – try not to take it personally. In times like this, every one is a critic.
Caring for aging parents, is perhaps one of the nicest and most meaningful things you can do for your parents. Even if your relationship with your parents was strained at times – you will still be happy that you were the one to take care of them. It isn’t easy by any means to take care of someone you love. To watch our parents become mentally challenged, unhealthy or out of sorts is definitely a test to the human spirit. If you make plans ahead of time and keep your eyes on what the future holds, you can definitely make the arrangement work for the best.
If you cannot be responsible for your parents complete care – do not have the room in your home, the money, or the means – then you still can play a pivotal role in their care. You can make sure that you are there and with them whenever they need you. You can listen to doctors, help them organize their home, do things inside their home to make life easier and enlist others to help. You can also stay in charge of their medical care, requesting that doctors consult and discuss things with you before proceeding with any new treatments. This way, you can rest assured that what is best for your parent is happening. When others see that you are a force in your aging parent’s life, they are less likely to take advantage of them as they get older.
Caring for aging parents is a reality that most of us will have to consider at some point in our lives. For some, the decision to do so comes quick and easy. For others, not so much. However, you feel is personal and you should decide what is best based on your needs and your parents.