How to Care for Aging Parents in their Senior Home
Sometimes being around a parent or grandparent that is aging the hard way can be more difficult on the family members than the retiree themselves. Learning to cope with elderly parents can be a scary and challenging experience, especially when figuring out how/where they should live and how it should be funded.
Knowing when to take the reins away from an aging parent is always difficult; knowing when the time is right for them to go into assisted living, or other life changing events is hard to put on your own shoulders. Who can you ask for help when the person you’ve always looked to for guidance is now the one who needs guiding? The following tips won’t be as insightful or as personal as your parents would be, but they can help guide you on the way to making sure the most important people in your life are comfortable in their senior housing living arrangements.
1. Helping to Care for Aging Parents
Senior healthcare is a problem that many adults are starting to see in their Baby Boomer Generation parents. Look to other family members, senior living communities, friends and neighbors to get a full picture on how your parents have been acting and what problems might be arising. Talk to doctors, find out prescriptions they might be using or have forgotten to refill. The following pointers go along with this general coverage of helping to care but focus more specifically on certain senior lifestyles.
2. Research your Options
If your parents are living a healthy, active lifestyle, they might be eligible to enter a continuing-care retirement community where they rent or buy an apartment with the assurance of nursing care close by if they need it. If, however, your parents are not healthy, having them move in with their adult children has become an increasingly more popular option. If you can plausibly coexist in a peaceful way with your parents, this can be a safe and financially smart decision.
3. Maintaining Their Own Home
If you find you could not live with your parent (which a child should not feel guilty about), helping them maintain their own senior homes can do wonders for their mental and physical health. Various safety features may need attention, including first-floor bathrooms, grab bars in hallways and bathrooms, and a personal emergency response system in case your parent needs assistance while alone.
If your elderly parent has gotten to the point where they need assistance with everyday chores such as meals, they can pay for services such as Meals on Wheels, which may be free for anyone over 60.
Keep in mind that Medicare will only pay the full cost of professional help if a physician certifies that your parent requires nursing care and if these services are provided by a Medicare-certified home health care agency. Adult day care is another option and a good way to get your parent to socialize with other adults. Prices for day care can cost up to $100 a day or more, depending on the amount of attention and activities provided, but reduced rates may be offered for those who can’t afford the full charge.
The Online Support for Eldercare Administration on Aging (www.aoa.gov) can help you find information on adult day cares and other services for the elderly.
4. Financing Long-Term Care
One of the biggest worries that children dealing with aging parents have is how to pay for all the costs associated with all the care that is needed. The costs associated with health and home care and become extremely unsettling, but the government does try to make a few short cuts for you. If you are supplying more than half of a parent’s support and his/her income is less than $3,300 (as of 2006) you can claim your parent as a dependent. This allows you to write off many of the medical expenses. Other options include claiming a federal tax credit or opening a flexible spending account (FSA).
Sometimes sending a parent to a nursing home is inevitable. If that’s the case, make sure you make a reservation to a (well-researched) senior home at least a year in advance. Waiting lists for assisted living homes tend to be very long, and Medicaid only offers senior benefits to low-income individuals. The government will only offer another small amount on help for nursing home costs. Unfortunately, the average nursing home can cost around $6,175/month, so financially planning in advance is a must for ensuring the continued care of your elderly parents.
5. Helpful Resources
Use these resources to help you figure out the best ways to help your elderly parent live a happy lifestyle in their golden years.
- Caring for Your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide, 240 pages, Sterling Press, 2005
- Consumer Reports Complete Guide to Health Services for Seniors: What Your Family Needs to Know About Finding and Financing Medicare, Assisted Living, Nursing Homes, Home Care, and Adult Day Care, 592 pages, Three Rivers Press, 2000
- The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (www.aahsa.org)
- National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (www.n4a.org)