When you were young, you counted on your parents to provide for your needs. They nurtured you and watched you grow to be the person that you are today. As a child they seemed to be bullet proof. Nothing could slow down your parents and you were sure that they would live forever. As you grew up though you started noticing that they seemed smaller somehow. The older you got, the older they got and it seemed so bizarre.
Eventually it gets to the point where you realize that your mom and dad will not live forever and that eventually they may need some help whether it is just a few things here and there around the house or help with everything because they just cannot do it themselves. If you want until that point your parent may resent the idea. Or worse, they may not be able to comprehend why you would allow strangers to give them a bath. If you wait until they need the help the may not be in a position to let you know exactly what they want.
Talk Early, Talk Often
Choose a day where things are calm and private and discuss future plans with your parent. Maybe they already have some ideas of what they would like if they ever become unable to care for themselves. You may bring up some of the things that they cannot or should not be doing around the house right now like cleaning the gutters or trying to mow the lawn alone. Once you come up with a sensible plan for the immediate care needs you can work on a potential future plan that can be revised as things change.
Designate an Advocate
If there is more than 1 sibling it is important that everyone feel as involved as they need to be. One person should be set aside as the advocate for the parents. It is important that the parents be the ones to choose this person since it is their advocate. If the parents become incapacitated and unable to speak the advocate will be the one to help make decisions on their behalf and in their best interests.
There will be a number of legal issues including setting a power of attorney, deciding whether there should be a living will or advanced directive in place for any medical issues that may come up and setting up a payeeship for their money so that bills can continue to be paid in a timely manner. Discuss wishes for things like life support if there is need. Some people do like to make their own funeral arrangements. If your parents are comfortable discussing this it is a good idea to get it all out in the open. This way there’s no arguments when the time comes.
When it is Time for More Care
Once your parents move from needing a little extra lawn care and help around the house the question arises about whether or not it makes sense for them to stay in their own home. If they can do with just a little extra housekeeping, light cleaning and someone to check on them every day a home care service might be the right idea. If they have a few medical conditions and need help keeping track of their medications and need other tests like daily sugar readings they may need a visiting nurse. But, if your parent has serious medical issues, is bed bound or has advanced dementia it might be time to think about a long term care facility so that they are well cared for, fed and most importantly safe.
This may be one of the hardest parts of dealing with your parent’s care especially if one is healthier than the other. You don’t want to separate them. But you also don’t want to leave one to try to take the responsibility of all of their partner’s care. Since there are so many levels of long term care facilities, your healthier parent may be able to live with the more frail one. This way they’re both together. Both will be getting the proper care based on their needs. They will worry about the expense or their home, pets and other things. They must be assured that this is what is best for everyone. Especially if the family members do not live close enough to provide daily care.
It is a Hard Job
Caring for a parent can go from simple task to heartbreaking effort in the blink of an eye. Caregiver burnout is real and should not be discounted especially if you have a job, a home and family that still need your attention as well. You may think that you are capable of handling your parent’s needs. But if they have medical issues beyond what you are comfortable dealing with or dementia you will quickly find out that you are not ready for any of this and that is fine too. Let your family know what your limits are during the early discussions. Make sure that everyone is on the same page from the start. Then enjoy the good years that you have left.