My mother has battled one illness or another for most of her life. First it was diabetes, then high blood pressure, now those are compounded with hypothyroid and dementia. I’m the youngest of her seven children, so I’ve watched her health deteriorate over the years.
Initially, my mother struggled to adapt her mainly carb heavy diet to a much healthier one and to find the right balance and timing between eating and taking her insulin. And now that struggle has gotten worse with the dementia factor. She forgets to eat or take her medication at the appropriate time, and this has severe (often life-threatening) consequences.
But what can you do when the caregiver refuses to give up her role and accept that she is now the one in need of care?
I first noticed something was off when my mother could not keep track of her bills. Her monthly social security disbursement would come in and often no bills got paid aside from her rent, and then the money was all gone. How? I’d wonder.
This happened on a few different occasions, leaving her utilities in jeopardy and us scrabbling to make her payments.
This led to me managing her monthly bill payments. Pretty soon, I noticed she would tell doctors or anyone with any questions to call her daughter because she takes care of it. That was the early signs of her forgetfulness.
Don’t ignore the signs. If something isn’t adding up or your parent isn’t explaining things fully, ask to accompany him to his doctors’ appointments. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth, and ask questions.
If you notice anything disconcerting, ask other people in your parent’s life to get an outside opinion. And carefully broach the subject with your parent. Maybe she’s noticed it too, and doesn’t know what to do about it.
Create a Plan
Do the research. There are a lot of resources available both online and in your local town or doctors’ offices that can help you in creating a game plan for care that is suitable for your elderly parent. Start with the Social Security and Medicare websites. Under the Elder Care heading, you’ll find services and products offered by these institutions that will aid you, many of which are free for their members.
List out the symptoms and remedy options. It could be that you’re having a parent dealing with an illness that requires frequent doctors’ visits and medications. Or your elderly parent is unable to take care of himself properly. Determine what is needed (such as an aide for a few hours, daily medication prep, or even around the clock care), and estimate the costs. There are elder care management workers (social workers for the elderly) that can help you by assessing what you need and notifying you of services and programs available to you.
Clear the Air
Discussion is key. If your parents are anything like mine, you’ll be faced with the difficulty of them not wanting to discuss their issues with their children. It requires swallowing pride and vulnerability to admit they are no longer able to do the things they once could with ease. And now having to consult with the person they took care of for help, can be a major hit to the ego. But as Bill Withers once said, for no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show…[so] lean on me.
“One of the essentials of elderly care is to remember each member of society wants to be healthy and functioning. When an elder realizes he or she is unable to continue caring for oneself like they were able to in the past it is devastating to their self-image,” asserts Inside Elder Care author, Cheryl Swanson.
By getting things out in the open, you and your parent can have an amicable discussion about how best to implement a new care plan and may even uncover other areas of concern. This can prevent your elderly parent from feeling blindsided or having resentment toward you for acting on their behalf without consulting him.
The Costly Alternatives
As mentioned earlier, once you’ve determined that your elderly parent needs daily assistance, your options are relocating to an assisted living facility, hiring an aid to assist in the home, or having your parent live with you or another relative. Assisted living facilities are costly.
According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey, a one bedroom in an assisted living facility costs an average $3600 per month, and a nursing home (which has more comprehensive care for seniors) costs on average $220 per day. Not only are these options costly, they can be isolating and devastating to the affected senior.
While hiring a home health aide or homemaker services (which provide general personal care and/or cleaning and other assistance) costs on average $20 per hour. These costs quickly add up and can be a heavy burden. On the other hand having an elderly parent move in has added costs of being physically and mentally taxing on the caregiver’s time, energy, and resources.
Find Your Individual Solution
Each situation is different. Start with the paperwork. Get all legal and medical documents consolidated and organized.
In some cases, visiting a lawyer may be necessary to get power of attorney, healthcare proxy, life insurance and a living will documentation established. Assess the needs of your elderly parent, and don’t go it alone. There are resources accessible to you for whatever your need may be.
In today’s tech savvy world, there is an app for almost anything. Things such as your elderly parent’s medical history and medications lists can be accessed by online portal or app, which helps make life a bit easier. Find what works best for you and your parent, and don’t worry. It may seem overwhelming at first but it does get easier.
What are some other ways you can help care for your elderly parent?