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When Adult Children Become Caregivers for Aging Parents
If we live long enough, it will happen. The day will come when our parents or other elderly relative can no longer maintain their own home. The tasks of daily living become too much for frail bodies and minds and it is up to us, the adult children, to return the love we were given as children. It can be emotionally difficult, financially devastating, or, it can be an exciting time. It's up to us.
The Circle of Life
The Children Speak
It has been hard watching you lose your independence. You were always so strong and capable of handling whatever came your way. While you were raising your children and creating a home for them, the world began to change. Technology got ahead of you while you were busy earning a living, preparing meals, car-pooling to soccer games, and delivering your children to piano lessons. While you worked tirelessly to provide a clean, safe home for your family and demonstrating the value of honor and integrity, the world became more violent and mistrusting. You barely noticed because you were busy doing what great parents do.
There came a time when it took a lot longer to clean the house due to those minor aches and pains that come with age. Mowing such a large lawn in a day took its toll on your body. For a time, you argued that you could still do it and you vehemently refused offers of help. The day eventually came when even you knew you could not do it anymore but it was hard for you to admit. We think you understand now and we hope you can accept that it is our turn to take care of you. It is our turn to pay back some of the love and care you gave to us so unselfishly. You have earned the right to be cared for and pampered. You have earned the right to be comfortable, safe, and happy and to have time to reflect on all you have given to others along the way. We want this for you because we love you. Your work is done now and it’s our turn. .
The Parent's Speak
Nothing was more frightening than realizing the responsibility that comes with bringing a new life into the world. The pregnancy was exciting and God knows we loved you from the moment we heard the news that we were going to have a baby. When we saw you for the first time, we had never known such love or yes - fear. You were our responsibility. It was up to us to keep you safe and to prepare you to face a world that could sometimes be cruel and unfair. If we did our job well, you would grow up to have compassion for others; to honor your commitments, and to know the difference between right and wrong. Our dreams for your success were not wrapped in the value of a dollar but more about your finding satisfaction in a job well done and discovering your own self-confidence without becoming arrogant. We have not been disappointed, not ever. We did the best we knew how. Sometimes we felt lost and alone but our love for each other and the family we created sustained us. The challenges were sometimes frightening but because of you, we found the strength to face and conquer them. You gave our life purpose and joy. Now, we are a burden and our hearts are breaking with all that our broken bodies and minds are asking of you.
Let’s talk about the future for aging parents and their adult children.
We’ve all heard the news that we are facing a crisis in America with people living longer and needing more assistance with the tasks of daily living. Until you become an adult child of an elderly parent, you don’t think about what it means. In our 20’s and 30’s we are focused on dating, education, building a career, and creating our own family. We raise our children and just when things should be getting easier, we face a new reality. If we have been blessed with parents who have lived to see our success, we begin to realize that our parents now need our help. The life we imagined for ourselves at this age is far from this new reality. Now, it is up to us to care for our elderly parents just as they did when we were children.
- Profile of Older Americans from the Administration on Aging
Electronic version of the popular brochure with the latest key statistics on older Americans in key subject areas. It includes both narrative and statistical charts.
Aging Population Profile
The Administration on Aging estimates that 57% of the elderly population currently lives with a spouse. The number decreases with increasing age.
An estimated 28% of non-institutionalized elders live alone.
It is estimated that 3.6% of the elderly population over the age of 65 live in institutions (nursing homes, assisted living, etc.). This number dramatically increases with age and it is believed that approximately 11% of those age 85 and older are living in institutions.
One must assume that as physical limitations increase in the elderly population, it becomes increasingly difficult for families to provide the level of support and care necessary for the desired quality of life. One must also wonder why? Are we a generation that is too busy or selfish to provide care for our elders or, has the economy forced us to choose career over care giving?
Preparing For This Chapter of Life
Although emotionally difficult, this can be a rewarding time if we are prepared for it. Unfortunately, most of us don’t prepare to be adult caregivers until it’s too late. So, what could we have done to make it easier? Let’s take a look.
Historically, when a parent reached the age where living independently was no longer a viable option, they moved in with their children. In today’s world, that is often impossible as more households require two incomes for sustaining a desirable lifestyle. Also, there are more single head-of-household families than at any time in history due to the high incidence of divorce. The cost of hiring in-home caregivers can be cost prohibitive for most families leaving long-term care in a geriatric facility as the only practical option.
Long Term Care Insurance:
Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living facilities and some facilities do not accept Medicaid. If you do not have a long-term care insurance policy, the cost of such a facility is an out-of-pocket expense. Could you afford it?
Long Term Care Insurance is available through many providers but must be purchased before the need arises. Having a long-term care policy before you need it can ensure that you are able to provide the highest quality of care for your loved ones.
The cost of residential care for an elderly parent varies from facility to facility. Some charge a single, lifetime investment fee while others charge a monthly fee. Some facilities will refund part of the lifetime fee upon the death of the resident while others do not.
Independent living or assisted living facilities often charge on a month to month lease with average monthly charges in the neighborhood of $2500 to $5000. In addition to the monthly charges, residents are often responsible for personal care items, telephone, and special medical needs such as speech therapy or physical therapy.
Adult children should meet with a financial planner or Elder Law attorney while their parents are still competent to make appropriate decisions. It may be in the best interest of the parents to put their home in their children’s name and preserve a lifetime trust to live in the home until the need to move arises. Why?
If money is not available to fund long-term care, your parent may be required to file for Medicaid. When this occurs, your parents' home becomes a part of their financial assets and you may be required to sell the home to offset long-term care costs. Prior planning can protect your parents' assets and leave the decision making to them and you as the adult child. Don’t give your power away.
Learn More About This Journey
- About Alzheimers - The Decision, Fear, And Grief
Alzheimer's Disease will eventually affect you or someone you love. With the help of friends and family, you can make the hard decisions, face the fear, and deal with the grief.
- Mom, I Thought Of You Today
I am not prepared yet to ask my aging Mother to give up the home she loves so dearly but the time is fast approaching. I have practiced the conversation in my mind often and it is still bittersweet.
Making Peace With The Hard Decisions:
Just as your parents had to make hard decisions when you were small, you too will have to make them as the adult child of an aging parent. Put the safety and well being ahead of your personal feelings. Your parents deserve no less.
It is emotionally painful to ask a parent to leave the home they have loved but the time may come when they can no longer manage the basics of day to day living. Seek the wisdom of the professionals. They have helped many in your situation make this transition and they want to help.
- Talk with your parent’s physician. Ask for their recommendation on which facilities to look at.
- Make an appointment and visit each facility. Talk with the staff and some of the residents and visit at different times of the day and night.
- After narrowing down the choices, take your parent(s) for a visit and tour if possible. Involve them in the decision making if possible.
- Remind yourself that if you could care for your parent at home, you would. Since you can’t, the decision to move them is the smart choice. They will never be alone and trained professionals will keep them clean, engaged, and comfortable.
- When introducing the idea of a move, do so with enthusiasm and excitement. Make the concept of a move positive and reinforce to your parent(s) that they will enjoy the attention and care they will receive.
- Once the move is complete, visit often and be alert for any problem that might arise. It is your job to hold the staff accountable for the care of your parent(s). Do not allow your visits to be predictable to the staff. In spite of their commitment to excellence and their desire to provide quality care, things sometimes fall through the cracks. Repeated offenses should not be tolerated and it is up to you to speak up.
- With help from trained professionals, you can make the time spent with your parent(s) quality time. Make each visit special and shower them with your love. Make their new friends your friends too and remember that this can be a lonely time or an enriched experience for you and your parent(s). It’s up to you.
Love Is The Answer
No one said it would be easy but our elderly parents have done their work. Life has come full circle and it is our turn to shower them with the same love and affection that we enjoyed as children. Smile often. Hold their hand. Reminisce with them. Let them see and feel your excitement and gratitude for having them in a safe and comfortable environment. And if you do nothing more, remember to, say “I love you” while you still can.
© 2013 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.
Nothing you have read here can be considered professional advice. I am a novice, picking my way through this journey one day at a time. Do your own research and trust your heart. Love will guide you through these challenging times.