Courtesy of Emma Sturgis
Selecting care for an aging parent is a concern shared by millions of children as their parents begin to have difficulties fully attending to their own personal and medical needs. There’s no universal right or wrong answer, but there is a best answer and right type of care based on the answers to some fundamental questions.
Give Your Parent A Voice In Decisions
Whenever possible, include your parent in his/her own care plan and decisions. Start talking about care sooner rather than when a health crisis actually erupts. A huge problem caregivers face, is resistance to care as their loved one is afraid, angry, and saddened by their loss of independence and privacy.
Numerous studies have shown that patient involvement improves both acceptance of care and care outcomes. The Mayo Clinic outlines some helpful tips to help manage resistance to care:
•Plan care talks when the parent is relaxed and open to the conversation.
• Ask their preferences and expectations.
• Describe care in a positive light, but outline the pros and cons of each option.
• Have answers to cost concerns.
• Enlist professional help from medical providers, lawyers, and care managers.
Some parents may be at a point where they’re mentally unable to contribute to care talks. If so, determine if they’ve ever created an advanced healthcare directive, such as a living will. Such documents give a voice to a parent who can no longer make their wishes clear. It also removes some of the decision burden off of care-taking children.
Consider Your Own Involvement In Care
Just as many caregivers forget to give their parent a say, some also tend to forget their own needs in selecting the best care for their loved one. It’s important to consider the following as it relates to your ability and time to attend to your parent’s care needs:
• Do you have children and/or a significant other vying for your time?
• Do you have professional obligations that keep you occupied at a set schedule, on-call hours, random or late hours?
• Can you mentally and physically attend the care needs of your loved one alone, with assistance, or not at all?
The answer to such question are often very different depending on what stage of life you’re in professionally, personally, physically, and mentally. It’s such answers that are often just as crucial as your parent’s state of health in determining the most appropriate source and type of care. Know what you can do, when you can do it, and what assistance you’ll need to do it.
Consider The Level Of Care Needed
Care for seniors can be met through an array of services and housing options. Which one is best will greatly depend on your parent’s mental and physical needs.
• Long-term Care Facilities
LTCs, also commonly called a nursing home, are available for structured, skilled 24 hour nursing care. These provide everything from medication and wound care services to daily routine group activities. As the name suggests, LTC facilities are designed for the long-term management of both acute and chronic disease process.
• Assisted Living And Independent Living
Assisted living and independent living facilities provide less structured care for those capable of attending the bulk of their activities of daily living. Assistance and guidance with things like medication reminders, transportation to and from appointments, housekeeping services, and laundry services are generally offered. The facility usually also offers community spaces for dining and group recreation. The communities are specifically for seniors, but different ones will offer different amenities.
• Memory Care Facilities
These are akin to nursing homes in structure, but they specialize in the care and security needs of people with cognitive diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s that often leave seniors physically high functioning and mentally low functioning. Note that many senior AL and IL communities are integrating separate memory and LTC facilities on the grounds to make the transition between levels of care as easy as possible for seniors and their loved ones.
• Home Health
This is a care option that can allow seniors to age in place longer. They will remain in the comfort of their own home (or a loved one’s home) with support caregivers that either provide services around the clock or come in at assigned times to perform specified duties. Home health services are vast and cover areas such as personal care, household chores, meals, medication reminders and administration, wound care, medical equipment services, and money management.
• Adult Day Care
This is a service akin to daycare for children. Skilled and semiskilled attendants attend to your parent’s safety, medical, social, and physical needs during the day. This is a good option for working caregivers planning to care for their parent at home.
Do A Trial Run
The options for care are vast, which is good for comprehensiveness of needs. However, the choices can nonetheless be overwhelming. It may take trial and error to ensure that your aging parent is both happy and receiving the level of care they need.
Start by making a list of all the must-have services. You’ll likely find multiple options for care are a fit. Narrow the list down by price consideration. Give the end list a trial run:
• Take your loved one to tour the facilities and/or meet in-home caregivers.
• Go for a meal at a facility and ask if you and your parent can sit in on a group activity.
• Ask for help from local agencies, such Area Agency on Aging, in gathering information about local options.
• Gather references and read online reviews for care service options and specific facilities.
• Since most facilities and services charge on a month-to-month basis, it’s easy to test the waters for a monthly trial.
In closing, these four check marks can help ensure your parent receives the best care possible. Just remember to give both you and your parent a voice in the decision process, understand what care is offered by what specific providers, and realize that you may have to test multiple waters before finding an exact fit.