For families who are approaching that point in life when elderly parents are less and less able to care for themselves and increasingly in need of help, the task of deciding what to do and when to do it can produce wildly conflicted emotions—if not outright conflict—on all sides. But it need not. Confronting the need for new living arrangements forthrightly with all parties involved and at an early point in the aging process can help alleviate many of these issues, but the decisions can still be difficult, for the parents and for their adult children. To ease the potential for trauma—and drama—there are some things you can do.
Experts on aging such as the AARP and the Family Caregiver Alliance recommend following a few simple steps to ease the transition. Start by honestly evaluating the elder parents’ needs while at the same time appreciating their wants. Remaining in their home for at least a while is one option. Non-profit agencies like the local Visiting Nurse Association can give parents who need help in their home a choice of services from occasional visits to full-time care. These same services are available if a parent opts to move in with a child, easing the burden on adult caregivers who may have full-time jobs and/or children. Once they have moved into an elder care facility the VNS can also continue to help along with private duty nurses to maintain a degree of continuity.
When it comes time to consider a dedicated elder care facility, it is important to understand that different facilities offer a variety of services to cover a wide range of conditions and degrees of independence, so understanding which will provide a good fit with a parent’s physical and mental condition is essential. The best facilities offer staged care, which allows elder residents to move from virtually full independence to nearly full-time care as their condition declines, but to remain within the same community. The location is also of major importance. How close is the facility to children and grandchildren? Will a parent still have access to familiar places, friends, haunts and vendors such as their regular hairdresser? The longer a parent has lived in a particular location the stronger these ties will be and the more those choices will matter. Not having to give up the familiar will help parents make the move.
Understanding the financial requirements of the various options you are considering and the means your parents have, in terms of assets, savings, and insurance, to apply to the solutions is another important conversation to have. And it will help you and your parents to choose the best option. Medicare will only cover part of any care and/or housing your elder parents may need. If they were prudent enough to have purchased long-term care insurance, the choices will be easier. The sale of a family home will obviously add to the pool of resources available.
When nearing a final decision of where the parents will live based on needs and ability to pay, it may still be difficult to convince one’s parents that it is the right choice. Engaging them in the process will obviously help, but other influences may be needed. Forbes Magazine suggests enlisting their doctors who can underscore the medical reasons for such a move or clergy who can assure them of ongoing support. The staff of the facility you have chosen have vast experience in this area also and should be enlisted to help bring some perspective to the situation.
Moving one’s parents out of their home of many years will present another series of hurdles. AgingCare.com suggests using a mover who specializes in moving the elderly. The delicate process of thinning out a house full of possessions will also require careful negotiations with a parent. The time-tested strategy of sorting everything in a home into “Sell”, “Keep”, or “Donate” will help greatly, with the added precaution that any items of value be professionally appraised and sold accordingly.
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