With the average age continuing to increase, the likelihood that you will in some way be responsible for caring for your aging parents continues to grow. While some adult children choose to bring their aging parent into their own home or provide assistance to their aging parents so that they can remain independent in their own homes (aging in place), there may come a time when it is no longer safe for your parent to live alone. Determining when that has occurred in the life of your parent may be extremely difficult.
There are certain "red flags" that should help you determine when your aging parent can no longer live safely at home. One of the biggest telltale signs that your aging parent needs help is when you notice a change in the home environment. Has he stopped showering? Has her level of hygiene changed significantly? Has she stopped cleaning or taking care of the home she lives in? Is he neglecting pets? Are the bills paid? Are there adequate groceries in the house? These can all be signs that your aging parent may need to consider long-term care options. It goes beyond concern to genuine risk if your parent begins to do things like forget to turn off the stove, get lost when coming home from somewhere familiar, or forget to turn on the heat on cold days. Your intervention in such circumstances is critical.
When you live away
If you don’t live near your parents, making an extra visit or two as they get older may be wise. Make friends with their neighbors or ask someone you can trust to let you know if they notice any changes. Make sure your parent’s doctor has a way to reach you, and talk to your parent about giving you power of attorney (to help manage his or her estate and make health care decisions) while he or she still has the capacity to do so.
Types of care
There are many resources for long-term care for aging parents. Long-term care includes both assisted living environments as well as skilled nursing facilities. The needs of your aging parent will determine the best placement option. Ideally, we would all have a discussion with our parents long before they reach an age where we have to make decisions about long-term care, and we would know their desires and be able to honor them to the best of our abilities. However, with a rapidly aging population, early-onset diseases like Alzheimer’s, and other unplanned incidents, there are many times when making the decision becomes a necessity of the adult child.
Transitioning from home to long-term care
Making the transition from living at home to living in a managed care facility can be difficult for your aging parent. It helps to make sure the place you choose is the right environment – the facility should value dignity and individuality and provide adequate care; they should have the expertise to handle any chronic issues your parent may experience. You can help your aging parent make an easier transition by being supportive and patient. If your parent is truly adamant about not wanting to move out of the home, look into the possibility of in-home health care. Your aging parent deserves to live out his or her life with as much independence as they are capable of maintaining; your understanding can truly make all the difference.