The stress of caring for an aging parent is one of the most difficult things to go through. Many adult children admirably choose to take on this responsibility single-handedly. However, as the years go by, it often becomes apparent that a trained elder care professional is a better option. It’s not just the burden that wears us down or the interruption in our own personal lifestyle that makes caring for our parents difficult. The fact is that sometimes we are just not enough to take care of our parents.
But it’s not easy turning over a loved one to someone else’s care. It’s your parent and you want them to have the best possible care so that they can live out these golden years as healthily and happily as possible. However, when making the decision to move a parent over to a senior living center, the options can be overwhelming.
1. What kind of housing should I choose?
Independent living is for people who can still get around on their own, but need a little help here and there. Typically, an independent living situation will see someone keeping an eye on the residents, without controlling their every move. Seniors will have a personal consultant that will make sure they are eating well and taking medication on a regular basis. Residents can set their own schedule and are free to come and go, but there are active people her age around and planned social activities.
Independent living normally offer assisted living options for when residents might need extra care down the line; that way they won’t have to move and leave familiar surroundings. For an independent living situation, the idea is to have complete freedom in their schedule but not having to deal with the little things like laundry, cleaning, meal preparation, etc. At the assisted living stage, you might see more interaction on the part of the caretaker and less freedom for the resident. However, each situation is different and individual health care needs are monitored by the establishment so that the resident is taken care of properly.
Nursing care is a little more in depth and at this stage, there is more hands-on medical attention on a daily basis. If your parent needs someone to help them move around, go to the bathroom, do rehabilitative exercises, this is what you’re probably going to need.
Further Reading: Finding the Best Care for Your Parents
2. How will my parents adapt to their new environment?
This is a huge issue and one that worries most adult children when considering senior living options. No one wants to see their parents in some sterile, drab chamber with only a large community room and one big TV as the source of entertainment while others mill about looking lost or wait in line to play the only board game in the joint.
Thankfully, for many assisted living centers, those days are pretty much passed; elder care is a booming business and the comfort of seniors is well respected. Living conditions are more like personal apartments or condos than just a room in a large building. Personal space is respected and can be personalized with furniture and comforting keepsakes from home. The meals are taken care of and are usually prepared by an experienced nutritionist that works on a one-on-one basis with many residents and their families to ensure a proper diet.
Having varied activities is also quite common and really help new residents adapt to their new surroundings. Daily walks or outings, movies and city tours and many other options are offered. Many times, family members are also invited to tag along.
Further Reading: How to Convince Mom and Dad to Move into Senior Living
3. How do I know if it’s the right time?
Once you start thinking about the possibility of senior living for your parents, it could be years until they actually need it. Although, alternatively, many people are caught off guard when they realize that one or both of their parents are incapable of caring for themselves. Don’t let this happen.
It may not be for years that your parent will need to relocate, not with the help of able-bodied children and grandchildren around. But as time moves on, taking care of an aging parent can interrupt and rupture family ties. Don’t wait until it is too late to start investigating a new living situation for your aging parent. Take notice of small changes in behavior or sudden mood swings that may seem out of character.
Also, a change in personal hygiene is also a strong signal that its time to start looking into options. If you notice that your mom or dad isn’t bathing or following their daily routine like they used to, it’s a sign that they’re going to need some help soon. Assisted living helps with daily tasks like bathing and dressing, things we kids may not be able to help out with on a constant basis, thanks to jobs and family matters.
Some of the best care facilities have waiting lists so its never to early to start looking at options. You don’t want to be caught completely unprepared when it becomes apparent that your mom or dad need help immediately. Be ready for it, so start asking around early to get referrals and get on the lists. It’s always a good idea to involve your parent in the decision. They should be able to check the grounds and interact with the people working or living there before moving in, too.
Further Reading: Transition Tips for Entering Assisted Living
4. How can I afford senior living for my parents?
Money always matters, sad as that statement is. Mom and dad probably have a fixed income now and to avoid still paying a mortgage, the house would need to be sold.
Budgeting is incredibly important when it comes to any type of health care, but there are programs to look into and other ways to help pay for housing and assistance, including financial help from family members. Most senior living communities are experts at getting their money in some way or another, but its always recommended that you speak with a independent financial consultant who is familiar with your parent’s economic situation. Also, Medicare might be an option for some, but the program only pays for skilled nursing care and may not be enough to cover 100% of senior living expenses.
The best advice I can give you is to talk to your parents about their economic situation years before considering. How much money do they have in savings? What is left on the mortgage? Any debt issues? Who will have Power of Attorney? Nobody likes to talk about these things, but when the time comes, you’re going to need this information to help finance your parents’ care. Fight through the uncomfortable part and find the answers you’ll need to make the best decision possible. Again, planning for senior living ahead of time will save you a lot of stress down the road.
Further Reading: Paying for Your Parents’ Care
Hopefully, some of the tips here will help you start to plan for your parents’ care. The best thing to do is to start the planning process early. Don’t wait until it’s too late to have a plan in place when its time for senior living. The good thing is that there are thousands of choices out there and although this situation can be frustrating, you’ll certainly be able to find something that you and your family agree is the best place for mom or dad.
For more information, check out our section on Care for Mom and Dad