Before you know it, you’ll be approaching 50. It doesn’t matter how young you are now, once your life starts to take off, time seems to go incredibly quickly. Now, you might think that turning half a century old is going to be tough to deal with. But in reality, you will have a lot of other things on your mind – namely your parents and how they are coping with their aging.
When you are 50, your parents are likely to be in their 70s or 80s. And it’s incredibly important to start having the type of conversation with them you have always tried to avoid. Don’t put it off by waiting for a health scare or significant event. If you don’t discuss all the options, you may not ever know what your parents want. With this in mind, here’s how to start getting ready for life with your aging parents.
The big talk
As we discussed above, it’s important to talk to your parents while they are still active and healthy. It can be tough, for sure, and many a family has been sent into turmoil after bringing up ideas on how money and finances should be spent, or what sort of care an elderly member should get. Interestingly, it’s the same whether or not the family is wealthy. Lower income seniors may feel ill at ease if they aren’t prepared financially, while wealthier seniors may worry about their money being wasted by children who might be a little less economically diligent.
However, it’s a talk you must have, and there are a few things to do to ensure it goes well. Make sure you talk in person, and that everyone who needs to be there can attend. It’s not a time for setting up secret meetings – the whole process has to be honest. It’s a good idea to prepare some questions beforehand, too, although you should always attempt to keep things conversational, not like an interrogation. Of course, things could get a little heated – it’s entirely rational. But by making sure that you appear to be listening, you should at least be able to ensure your parents understand their needs and wishes are being accounted for. Which brings us to the next big issue.
Needs and wishes
It’s important to establish what your parents want in the discussion. But you also have to bear in mind that their wants and wishes are a lot different to their actual needs. If your parents are robust, fit and healthy, you might feel it is okay for them to stay at home. But what if they have health concerns? Some parents may be happy to move into assisted living facilities – others may not. Perhaps there could be a compromise involving at-home care? Or maybe you decide that you or one of the siblings can take your parent or parents in?
Of course, not all health concerns will be immediately visible. It’s important to keep tabs on your parents’ health to ensure they have the right care in place when the time comes. Are they eating properly? Have you noticed they are getting more forgetful than usual? Are they looking after themselves and keeping themselves hygienic? Is the home in good shape, or are things looking a little over-cluttered, messy, and run down? Don’t spy on your parents, of course, unless you want your relationship to break down very quickly indeed!
The care home options
Even if your parents are more than independent, aging can make things change very quickly. According to research, around 70 percent of seniors require long-term care at some point, so you will need to consider all your options. There is good news, however, in that options are many in this day and age. There are plenty of different care options that you can weigh up, and you and your siblings and other family members should balance your parent’s needs, your resources, and the collective wishes of everyone.
First up, there are assisted living communities, also known as personal care homes. These are good for seniors who don’t need 24/7 care but are not safe to live on their own. Your parent or parents will get their apartment, with meals, medication, assistance, and housekeeping included. It’s expensive, for sure, but Medicaid may cover your parent. Secondly, there is the nursing home option. These are best for seniors with complex health problems and offer round-the-clock care. These are one of the most expensive options due to the high level of medical care involved.
Finally, there are home care options or adult day health care. With the former, your parent stays in their home while receiving help from a home assistant, who can be hired to come in whenever you like. With adult day care, your parent can gain lots of different health care services at a community center. These are usually a good idea for getting some respite if you take the alternative option – deciding to be your parent’s caregiver. Let’s take a look at that now.
Becoming a caregiver
Given some of the costs involved with care homes, many people with aging parents get quite a shock when they find out. And it leads to an interesting question: could you deal with the parent/child role reversal and look after your parent as they age? It’s a lot easier to do if you have a healthy relationship with your parents, but don’t expect a smooth ride. It can be incredibly tough looking after the people that have looked after you all of your life. You may need to dress them, feed them, attend to them in the bathroom, and many other things. It’s also problematic regarding logistics. Do you have the room to house your parents? Are your kids old enough or dependable enough to live with their grandpa or grandma? While much cheaper than the car home option, it won’t all be plain sailing.
As you can see, there are a lot of options available, but lots to think about. And the sooner you start coming up with a solution, the more comfortable you should find the experience of looking after your aging parents.