Is it Time to Care for Elderly Parents?
Caring for elderly parents can be a daunting task, but it is one that many of us will face at some point in our lives. There are a number of things you can do to make the process easier on both you and your parents.
I’ve also sprinkled a few ‘Caring for Elderly Parents Quotes‘ throughout the article. Enjoy!
There are 7 definite phases in your future! My parents lived with me for more than two decades, so I feel more than qualified to discuss these phases with you. There were challenges for sure, but also memories that I wouldn’t take anything for. It’s difficult to put multiple generations in the same household, but it is well worth it!
Table of contents
- Is it Time to Care for Elderly Parents?
- Phase #1 – Observing the Need
- Phase #2 – Legal Issues When You Care for Elderly Parents
- Phase #3 – Decision Time!
- Phase #4 – Family Issues
- Phase #5 – Planning the Space to Care for Elderly Parents
- Phase #6 – Adjusting to Caring for Elderly Parents
- Phase #7 – The End of Caring for Elderly Parents
Phase #1 – Observing the Need
When you see your parents (or parent) getting less capable of taking care of themselves, you will start to think about what to do. Much depends on your situation! Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How much care will they need? Are they still independent?
- Do You have space in your home for them? Have to remodel? Or buy a larger home?
- Would they want or expect separate living quarters? Consider privacy – both yours and theirs!
- Would you have to quit your job to care for them? Or perhaps you work at home?
- Do you have needed skills if they require a higher level of care?
- Are any family members willing to help?
- Do they have sufficient income to pay their own bills? They will usually have pensions or Social Security benefits.
- Are you prepared for the higher house payment as a result of needing more space?
- If a parent is already wheelchair bound, they will need a lot of care. Can you physically lift them in and out of the chair, bed, shower, etc.
This is a time of huge emotional swings for all of you. They want to remain independent, and they also don’t want to be a burden on you. Because of space, they will most likely have to sell or give away many of their precious belongings. And this causes uncertainty and fear of the future.
Another major consideration is your spouse! Is he/she in agreement with this decision that will have a great impact on their life?
You have your life to live and perhaps still have children living at home. You’re now in the ‘sandwich generation’….having to care for children and parents at the same time. You actually become the ‘parent’ to the young and older ones.
The older ones are not accustomed to the noise younger children or teenagers make. This can cause stress, especially if they are trying to take a nap and there’s too much going on. And the younger ones can’t understand why you want them to be quiet all the time.
Phase #2 – Legal Issues When You Care for Elderly Parents
Treat this issue very much like a business contract. I didn’t do it myself, and lived to regret it. You love your parents and they love you, but it’s so much better to get everything in writing. Also there are laws in certain states that might require you to care for an elderly parent at some point, so check with an attorney to see what applies to your situation.
- What are your expectations?
- What are their expectations?
- Who is going to pay for remodeling the space to accommodate their needs?
- If you plan on separate living quarters, who will pay for utilities, groceries, insurance, living expenses, etc.
- Spell out ANYTHING financial – especially if there are any siblings involved.
- Will you have power of attorney?
- Do they have a living will? Who will make decisions in a hospital room someday?
- Who are Beneficiaries on insurance policies? Are these policies up to date?
- Are their personal wills up to date?
- Will you oversee paying their bills? Will you be added to their bank account? If so, watch out for this one with siblings!!
I know this sounds cold, but believe me, you will want these agreements in place. I did everything I could for my parents for over 25 years, and somehow ended up being the bad guy. Among other things, I was asked by a family member to account for every dime over that long period of time. It was crazy! Nothing gets people going faster than money. And this is a pie that everyone wants a piece of!! You love your whole family, but these difficulties can sure cause the stress meter to pop.
You may never have any of these problems, and I surely hope you don’t – but I encourage you to have signed agreements in place just in case questions ever arise. Emotions run high when parents are involved, so prepare ahead!
It would be a good idea to bring anyone involved to the table for discussions on all these things. That way, everyone agrees or is at least aware of what will be happening. Don’t forget to keep your own children in the loop even if they’re grown. This will affect their lives as well.
Phase #3 – Decision Time!
It’s time to decide about the details of caring for elderly parents!
- When will the move occur?
- Is there space in your current home? Will you have to remodel? Who will pay?
- Or will you buy a larger home to accommodate the need?
- If they will have separate living quarters, are there any insurance considerations?
- Will they pay rent? Who will do their housekeeping?
- Who will pay for any nursing care they might need?
- Who will take them to doctor appointments, etc.? Grocery shopping?
- Will they continue to drive a car? Is there parking space available?
Phase #4 – Family Issues
This actually may not be phase #4, because it could come anytime through the years you are caring for elderly parents. Maybe this won’t be an issue for you. But if there are siblings and family members, there’s a good chance that you will have to deal with it. I believe most every family has had to deal with (or now dealing with) these problems at one time or another. The family income level doesn’t seem to matter. It affects all age and income groups.
Drug problems are at crisis level in this country right now, and when people are hooked on them – they will do anything and everything to get what they need.
I’ve had family members take my parents prescription meds and replace them with putting aspirin or advil in the bottle. I’ve had a niece come to visit and the meds just disappeared.
Sometimes, they will steal the meds and sell them to their friends. It’s awful to say, but they couldn’t care less about their parents/grandparents. So many people tell me they have dealt with this same issue.
HEY MOM, I DON’T HAVE MONEY FOR MY ELECTRIC BILL. CAN YOU HELP ME OUT?
HEY DAD, THE BABY’S SICK AND I DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO TAKE HIM TO THE DOCTOR. CAN YOU HELP ME OUT?
This is something you can expect! Most elderly people have pensions and social security income. So some siblings might decide that since you’re taking care of the parents, then they don’t need ‘all that money’. So they come asking Mom and Dad to give them money for whatever they need at the moment. Sometimes it’s the grandchildren! The grandparents feel sorry for them and give them the money – and the kids use it to buy more drugs. It’s heartbreaking to watch this happen, but it happens all the time.
Know or figure out which family members don’t get along and plan ways to smooth the road ahead. Maybe one of these problem children that we discussed earlier is your brother or sister’s child…and those kids can do no wrong! How will you handle that?
It can be a difficult path to walk because it’s your home and you want to maintain your own privacy. But, at the same time, you’re trying to care for your parents the best you can. And because family members are accustomed to their own relationship with those parents, you can see how you can quickly become the bossy ‘guard dog’ when you try to protect your parents from being taken advantage of. I often felt like a piece of taffy, being pulled in both directions at once.
Phase #5 – Planning the Space to Care for Elderly Parents
Much will depend on the need and the available space, but at the very least you will need a shower that is easily accessible, grab bars next to the toilet/shower area. If there’s a wheelchair involved, you will need a ramp to get in and out of the house. Measure the door openings to make sure the wheelchair will fit through them.
What about bedroom space? Again, this depends on if you will have private quarters or just make space in your present home. They will most assuredly need a bedroom on the main floor or at least easily accessed.
What about cooking? If you’re using one kitchen, make sure everyone knows the kitchen clean-up rules!
It’s a sad fact that elderly people often forget to turn stove burners off. Did you know that over 40% of home fires are from stove burners being left on? And 15% of the deaths resulting from this! Safety is a major concern when caring for elderly parents.
But, what a fun time this can be! Remember all those dishes that Mom used to make? The ones you never learned? This can be a time when she can teach you so many ways to cook. And Dad as well, he can teach you and your children the ‘old ways’ of doing things. It’s great to know.
As I mentioned earlier, if either parent is still driving – will you have extra parking space available.
Phase #6 – Adjusting to Caring for Elderly Parents
OK – so everyone is moved in! Now it’s time to adjust to living with two families in the same house. Remember that Mom & Dad have been on their own for a very long time and are ‘set in their ways’. Maybe Dad is cantankerous? It could be a matter of pride in no longer taking care of HIS family? A Dad and Son-in-Law might tangle just as a Mom and Daughter-in-Law will. They will probably feel like visitors in your home for quite awhile.
Let’s don’t forget a simple thing like the TV! If you share a living room or den, whose favorite TV shows are you going to watch? Maybe you should plan for a 2nd living space for them?
Tools! Don’t ever forget tools. The Dad and the man of the house may have different view on how to take care of tools. I remember this issue very well. Just make sure everyone’s on the same page here.
What about siblings and family members that are accustomed to walking right in to their parents home? How will you feel about them ‘barging’ into yours without knocking? They just want to visit their parents like always – but you rightfully think they should respect your home. And what if you want some quiet time and there’s a houseful of people. You’ll learn much about ‘family dynamics’.
It’s important to remember that you and your siblings don’t have the same viewpoint. You are inside this situation, it’s your home, and you have all you can do to juggle everyday issues. But, siblings are not in your shoes – their lives are going on as usual, and it’s easy for them to make judgments when they don’t have all the facts. Honest communication is hard to get, but it will help avoid many problems and hurt feelings.
These are all adjustments that will have to be made. It will take love and consideration on all sides to make it work. Your lifestyle is not their lifestyle, so compromises are in order.
This can be a rich, rewarding time of your life but it takes everyone working together to make it happen. My children will never forget the precious time they spent with their grandparents. They still talk and remember the fun times they had.
THE CHRISTMAS PLAN
My parents had a Christmas bonus from the company they used to work for, but for some reason they only received it every other year. (Who knows why?) So, one year would be a good Christmas and then the next would find my Mom struggling to buy gifts for the family. Anyway, one year was especially lean and Mom was worrying about it, so I decided to come up with a plan.
She was the best cook ever. (My kids always laughingly said she could make a Coke taste better.) Anyway, I came up with the brilliant plan to make cookbooks with her recipes. She was all for it, so we got busy. But, there was one problem…she never used recipes herself. It was a pinch of this and a pinch of that and a little bit of something else. So, to make the recipes that someone could follow – she would cook and I would measure what she used. Somehow, we got it finished. I typed it out and started making copies. We had recipe pages, binders, backers and covers all over the house. It reminded me of something Lucy and Ethel would have come up with. But, at Christmas time, we had 15 cookbooks to give to family members…and they loved it. It ended up being a very special time that I will never forget!
Phase #7 – The End of Caring for Elderly Parents
Just like all the other decisions you’ve had to make, this phase involves a lot of decisions as well. Hopefully, you have worked with your parents to make some of these decisions. It will make things so much easier if they have pre-planned their own funerals. And make sure they have personally decided which children get what. If both your parents live with you, then there will be one left at this time. This will create a whole new set of needs and fears. But, hang in there and your life will be richer for it.
Caring for elderly parents can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, but it is also one that can bring great rewards. By reaching out for help from friends, family members, and professionals, you can create a support system that will make the caring for elderly parents process easier on both you and your loved ones. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself as well; caring for others is important, but so is taking care of yourself. If you have any questions about caring for elderly parents or would like help in finding a home more suitable to your new needs, call me! 615-428-8500. I’m a believer in taking care of elderly parents and have the experience to help you along the way. I’m also a remodeler, and it’s easy for me to spot where a small change can make a big difference in the layout of a house. We’ll put all this to good use and work together to find a perfect home that you will all be happy with.
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