What Caregivers With Aging Parents Need To Know Before Parents Move In
The Mayo Clinic Health System says that more Americans are living longer than ever before. Some of their middle-aged adult children are faced with a difficult decision: should they take their elderly parents into their homes and become caregivers, or should they look at other alternatives such as retirement residences or assisted living?
Before caregivers consider whether their parents should come into their homes, they visit them frequently in order to determine whether they are mentally sound, safe, and in the best living environment.
Subtle changes in their daily routines such as plants that are not watered, unopened mail, and bruises from possible falls may indicate that parents may no longer be able to live on their own safely and independently. Adult children can also encourage their parents’ trusted neighbors and family members to check in on them on a regular basis.
Caring for elderly parents can be rewarding and build stronger, more loving relationships between parents and their adult children, but can also require personal sacrifices from the adult children and create situations that cause resentment towards the parents. According to a survey by AgingCare.com, approximately 34 million Americans are caring for older family members and 34 percent of this group spends $300 or more a month of their own money on them.
Caregivers need to know what their parents expect and want and reach a consensus on what the best living situation would be for them. Parents and their adult children also need to discuss the challenges that come with aging such as mobility issues and medication. Consulting and partnering with parents’ medical professionals is also essential for caregivers.
Common issues to address
Finances and costs: Many caregivers need to have an in depth awareness of their parents financial situation and in some cases, take control via a power of attorney. They should be aware of outstanding debts, insurance policies, and whether a will has been filed. Caregivers in the U.S. or countries without government healthcare programs need to know if their parents are eligible for Medicare or other government benefits.
Caregivers need to consider how taking in a family member will impact their financial situation. There are numerous costs that caregivers must be able to handle. Their parents may need help with managing their money, and financial assistance in order to get medications or assistive devices such as canes or walkers. Some parents may need a home healthcare aide to assist them with hygiene and medication regulation.
Medication management: Caregivers should review their parents’ medication with them and their health care providers to ensure that the parents take their meds correctly.
Independent Living: Elderly parents may be frustrated and find it hard to accept that aging is making living on their own challenging or even impossible. Adult children may become frustrated and angry when parents are in denial about the decline in their abilities.
Parents may have increasing difficulty with everyday tasks such as financial management, shopping, grooming, or housekeeping. Withdrawal, apathy, depression, and weight loss can also be signs that parents are struggling. Adult children need to assess whether inviting the parents to live with them is a viable option.
Privacy: Parents want to be able to live with dignity and feel that others respect their privacy. Caregivers need to discuss the living arrangements with their parents beforehand to ensure a smooth transition to living in the caregiver’s home.
Cognitive difficulties: Sometimes, the forgetfulness that often comes with age is hard to distinguish from the symptoms of dementia. If parents are constantly misplacing things, repeating the same things over and over, and forgetting appointments, the parents should undergo a memory-loss evaluation by a medical professional.
Driving: For many seniors, driving represents independence. As they grow older however, adult children may be concerned about their parents’ safety. The adult children should be on the alert for any safety problems that arise in parents’ driving. Parents can undergo a professional driving evaluation. Here in Canada, my provincial government requires seniors to retake a driving test every two years to determine their competency. Doctors have the authority here to recommend the taking away of a driver’s license if seniors demonstrate a cognitive or physical decline.
Accessibility issues: Caregivers may need to modify their home to accommodate their elderly parents. The changes might be small such as adding handrails in the bathroom, or using a detachable showerhead. More radical changes may also be needed, such as a ramp for a wheelchair at the front door.
There are companies specialize in in accessibility-related construction. Some non-profit organizations can also recommend disabled people who will consult with caregivers on site and make suggestions. They may also recognize architectural barriers and be able to suggest possible accessibility solutions.
Keeping parents socially connected: Caregivers should check out the social opportunities that are available in their area. Many senior centers offer communal meals and a wide range of activities from card and board games to hobbies to trips to local sights. Some centers offer transportation to the programs. There may be other ways that seniors can volunteer and serve the community that they will find rewarding and fulfilling.
Advance care planning
Caregivers do not want to think of the time that their parents may develop physical or cognitive issues in the future, but they need to talk to their parents about it. Adult children should be aware of what their parents want should the adult children become responsible for making decisions for their parents at some point.
Caregivers can seek legal advice about setting up a power of attorney to govern their parents’ affairs. Parents and their children can also set up an advance directive, which is a legal document that explains what care the parents want at the end of life.
Caregivers should also find out their parents’ wishes regarding other end of life matters such as funeral arrangements and whether they wish their organs to be donated.
© 2014 Carola Finch