By Lynn Duke
When should a family come up with a plan for taking care of their care of their aging parents? The answer is now! Don’t wait until an emergency occurs and the stress of the situation causes you to make a poor choice. Then you’ll be getting all kinds of opinions on what to do from siblings, social workers, and friends. If you do not plan ahead, you will most likely take that advice, leaving out the ones who are most important in the decision: Mom and Dad.
No one can be completely prepared ahead of time for the emotional, financial, and legal issues involved with taking care of an elderly parent. But talking to them now about their preferred care for the future can alleviate misunderstandings and problems down the road.
Parent Moves in with Daughter
Connie Howard from Simpsonville, South Carolina, had her mother move in with her, her husband, and two sons. Her mother had lived an hour and a half away, and when she became clinically depressed, the family couldn’t move to her, so Connie’s mom moved to them. Her mother made the decision—as Connie felt it was important for her to do so. Connie was fortunate enough to be able to be there for her mom; but her mom became her job.
After a year and a half, it was decided it would be best for Connie’s mother to go to an independent living facility and have her own apartment. With much resistance at first, a week later her mom was happy and even said she should have done it sooner.
According to a survey by Gallup and Robinson on aging and quality of life, only 25 percent of elderly adults would want to live with a younger family member, yet 51 percent of families would be willing to take in a parent if they could not live on their own. Each situation is different, but it is OK to make other arrangements if it is not working.
Most importantly Connie said: “We did discuss things with Mother even before her moving in. The power of attorney forms, the legal documents were all done and in order. She did her own funeral arrangements and even did her obituary for the newspaper. That was a meaningful shared experience we both had together. When you do things far in advance . . . it’s just one less thing to think about.”
Connie’s mom lived there for three years before passing away.
Son Moves in with Parents
Bill Browning from Greenville, South Carolina, lived just two blocks from his parents in his own home. When his mother started having difficulty with mobility issues, he sat down with his parents and explained that he would try to keep them both in their home as long as possible. He sold his home and moved into his parents’ home, as logistically it worked better. His mom eventually went from a walker to a wheelchair, and it became quite difficult taking care of her. Bill realized she needed to be in an assisted living facility.
For a while, both his parents were in assisted living, until his mother passed away. True to his word, after his mom died, Bill took his father back home, and he is still caring for his 94-year-old dad there.
Bill tries to add variety to the everyday. They go out on their boat in the summer months, where he lets his father drive. (He jokes that there’s not much to run into out there.) Bill takes his dad to Florida on vacation where they eat out at seafood restaurants. And because his dad is a railroad buff, Bill takes him to railroad museums and on train rides for excursions.
But it is a sacrifice, as with anything. Bill said, “You are tied down. You can’t just leave them. You have to be there for them, and there is not a lot of time for yourself. You go day by day, and you do the best you can.”
In-Home Care: The national average for a home health aide is about $19 to $23 per hour. Agencies have a minimum of either two or four hours of care. Daily rates average $200 to $350 per day.
Assisted Living Centers: Similar to real estate, they vary nationwide. The average is $3,500 per month. According to SeniorHomes.com, the states with the most expensive median monthly assisted living costs are: Alaska ($5,500), Delaware ($5,500), New Jersey ($5,430), Connecticut ($5,289), and Massachusetts ($5,247). The states with the least expensive are: Georgia ($2,500), Missouri ($2,500), Arkansas ($2,850), South Carolina ($2,874), and Alabama ($2,894).
Nursing Homes: Medicare is not enough to pay for long-term care; the costs of a private room varies nationwide from as low as $145 per day in Louisiana to as high as $655 per day in Alaska! The nationwide average cost for a private room is $239 per day or $7,170 per month, and for a semi-private room it is $214 a day or $6,420 per month.
It is important to get a will and power of attorney forms for health and finances. With Alzheimer’s or dementia, for example, you will be signing forms for your parents to help with their care. Also if your parent is a veteran, there is a little-known program called aide and assistance—a monthly pension for care for elderly veterans that will help greatly with assisted living and even
How to Decide
Not all family situations allow a caretaker to live with their parent. Families try to do the best they can, but usually the majority of parental care falls to one individual. Not all siblings agree with the care for their parent, nor with the way the “system” is treating them.
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we are instructed to “‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:2, 3). One way we do this is by taking care of our parents in their old age as best we know how, given the circumstances.
Lynn Duke is a freelance writer in Fountain Inn, South Carolina.
Websites for Caregivers
metlife.com—MetLife has a workbook with questions and useful information about helping an aging parent stay at home. It might be a good place to start the ball rolling with discussions. In the search bar, type: aging in place 2.0.
agingcare.com—This site has tons of reference material and information on health, caregiver support, money and legal issues, and a search tool for facilities.
seniorhomes.com—Here you can search for a list of assisted living, Alzheimer’s care, retirement homes, and more in your specific area.
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