Caring for Aging Parents & The Elderly

For those with aging parents, it can be quite difficult figuring out the balance between taking care of your parents and allowing them to remain independent. For some people, determining where that balance is can lead down a road of bitterness and regret as the paradigm shift becomes more apparent- as the roles between children and their parents become reversed.

In order to prevent any ill-will from developing- from parents considering receiving help from their children as a form of loss of dignity to children being so overwhelmed by the financial responsibility of being a caregiver that resentment begins to materialize- make sure that you research what caring for aging parents is like as well as considering the following to help you and your parents together determine the best course of action of their particular situation:

1. Do you have the time to care for your parents? Not only will taking care of aging parents come with expenses, but it will require time and effort on your part. If you are working full-time, it will be near impossible to provide your parents with the care and assistance they need. But if you quit your job to make the time to take care of your parents, you may very well be placing yourself in a financial predicament; also, if you quit your job now, how easy will it be to find a job when you are able to do so? You should consider your own financial situation and future before quitting your job to take care of aging parents.

  • You should remember to look into your employer’s policies on flex-time and family-related leave; perhaps your employer will let you remain employed during the period of time you need to provide care for your parents.

2. What financial costs will be required to provide care for your parents? Before deciding whether or not to quit your job/scale back on hours to make the time needed to take care of your aging parents, you should sit down with your parents and figure out the potential costs of taking care of them as well as the financial abilities of both you and your parents to pay for those costs. Basically, you should create a budget and determine the abilities of both you and your parents to meet that budget.

  • Main things to consider while creating the budget is to calculate the costs of taking care of your parents yourself, of retaining a part-time caregiver to help your parents out with certain tasks they need assistance with, or of placing your parents in an assisted-living facility.
  • You should keep in mind that the costs of letting your parents grow older in their own house has costs that are not as obvious as the cost of placing your parents in an assisted-living facility. It is crucial that you and your parents have a frank discussion about exactly what kind of assistance and care they would require to remain independent and living in their own house.

3. What would your aging parents want if they are unable to make decisions for themselves? In other words, as difficult and uncomfortable as it may be, you and your parents need to have “The Conversation”- what you should do if and when you get power of attorney over them, how to make an end-of-life decision (should heroic measures be taken to keep a parent or parents alive?), and what kind of care they would like should they become affected by Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

  • There are many important inevitable decisions to make as parents get older and older, whether you or your parents want to make them or not. As there are many things to discuss, you and your parents should not attempt to hash out all the decisions and complications in one sitting; try to keep conversations positive, productive, and open as possible. The more you discuss these things with your parents, the more questions and uncertainties that may crop up.

To help figure out the finer details about what to do as your parents get older, especially the finer legal details, you should consider consulting an eldercare expert or an attorney well-versed in these matters.

If, after careful consideration with your aging parents, it is decided that your parents will remain living independently in their own home with you acting as their main caregiver, you should read on to find out about some low-cost and free services that you can utilize so that you do not get burnt out taking care of your parent by yourself:

  • There will more than likely be low-cost or free help available to both you and your parents right in your very own neighborhood. These community-based services can include help with doing household chores (cooking, doing laundry, running errands, etc.), providing basic healthcare, or simply providing companionship and regular check-ins. Services within the community are often run on a volunteer basis, although there are some services that may charge low hourly rates that may be covered by insurance.
  • There are services that provide low-cost, and sometimes free, hot meals for seniors. Some of these types of services may offer home delivery while others provide hot meals in a group setting at a community center or a similar location.
  • Even at the federal level, you can find government programs that are designed to help out elder people and their caregivers. These programs will help elders and their caregivers find low-cost or free eldercare services in their area. You start your search for eldercare assistance at the federal eldercare locator website.
  • You should take care to educate yourself and your parents about the benefits and coverage provided by Medicare and Medicaid. For example, Medicare does not cover nursing home benefits, but Medicaid does, although this benefit usually does not kick in unless the senior has exhausted all other resources. You should find out whether or not Medicaid or Medicare will cover prescription drug and medication costs, has co-pay/out-of-pocket limits, and has other medical coverage benefits.

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