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Caring for Our Elders

Updated on November 29, 2010

Who Should Be Responsible?

It is a hard thing to acknowledge your parents and grandparents will not always be healthy and able-bodied during the course of your lifetime with them.  If they or other loved-ones in your life who are older than you begin to need assistance in performing daily tasks or having help around the house, you may be caught in the middle of having to decide what is best for them.

Is it your responsibility to ensure their care?  What are their wishes?  Do they want your help, or are they resistant?  Part of making the right choice is in honoring their feelings.  No one wants to feel like a burden on someone else.  In some cultures, however, elders look forward to their immediate or extended family pitching in to care for them in their old age.  But in today's world, people are either more active at an older age, or else they are developing diseases that drastically cut shor their lives or make them become dependent on others to provide for their care the rest of their lives.

Your Options

Unfortunately, there is no magic number for an age at which you may be required to make a decision about your aging relatives.  You just have to be prepared.  Know your options.  If you want to oversee care, do you pay for your loved one to receive it via a healthcare professional (either at home or at a healthcare facility) or do you have your relative live with you?  There is no wrong or right answer in this matter, as it is different for every family.  In terms of independence, some elders may prefer to not give their family control over their care, and look forward to being in an assisted living or retirement community where medical help is nearby, without a hospital feel.  Others may prefer living in their rightful home, and instead employ a live-in or visiting nurse to care for their needs. 

Feeling guilty for not having your aging relative live with you is not necessary - you may not have the space, finances, or the time to provide the special care needed, and that is ok.  Neither should you feel guilty if you do end up having to have your loved one in your home because you can't afford assisted living costs.  The good thing is that you can plan ahead and keep communication open between you and your loved ones many years in advance in order to prepare for the day when the choices you discuss are put into motion.  Perhaps they can have a savings account that they can entrust you with when the time comes, so that it is less of a financial strain on you.  But even if you are suddenly faced with the unforeseen need of assuming care of your relatives in some way, you can obtain help and advice through your place of worship, other family members, and also look into options you might have with insurance benefits and local programs or government tax cuts, etc. that you can utilize during this time.

Ideally, families ought to work together to assume care of their aging relatives.  Splitting costs of healthcare, or assigning your family to help out in different ways, can relieve you of feeling solely responsible for everything.  Remember, whatever decisions you make, do them out of love for the person in mind, so that you are setting an example for your children and younger relatives, knowing that one day you too might need to depend on them to help you.


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