A Guide to Caring for Aging Parents

By Sarah Johnson

When caring for your aging parents, there are more than a few aspects that need your careful consideration.

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When caring for your aging parents, you need to think about the expenses of their basic necessities like odor eliminators, leak-proof adult diapers, and wipes for adults. Not only this, but you also need to consider expenses like medical care facilities.

Since you have several responsibilities, you need to think broader. If you don't, you will end up making the wrong decisions for you and your parents. We have mentioned several aspects that need your consideration when caring for your parents. Let’s discuss them.

Understand How Much Care is Needed

You should know that every caregiving situation is different. Your cognitive, emotional, and physical abilities decide how much you can do and what you should do in the situation of caregiving to your elderly parents.

Besides that, you also need to consider the necessities of your parents. Some aging parents only need minimal assistance and help. For instance, you can help in arranging safe transportation to medical and social appointments. However, others may need assistance in all their activities of daily living (ADLs) to remain healthy and safe. They will need your help, from cooking a meal to wearing leak proof diapers for adults.

Some common ADLs in include:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Walking
  • Transfers
  • Toiletry/continence and personal hygiene

Some instrumental ADLs which your loved one will need include:

  • Managing money
  • Preparing meals
  • Using a telephone
  • Performing housework

Health care providers usually evaluate how much an elder can complete ADLs.

Consider Finances for Your Parents

The expenses of older adults' care can be daunting. Not to mention, it is impossible to afford out-of- home care for some people. The following are the average cost of caring for your elder parents.

  • Nursing home semi-private room- around $78,110 each year or $214 per day
  • Nursing home private room- around $87,235 each year or $239 per day
  • Home care (homemaker)- around $19,760 each year or $19 per hour
  • Home care (home health aide)- $21,840 each year or $21 per hour
  • Adult daycare- around $18,200 each year or $70 per day

When assessing your options to care for your older parent, you need to ask yourself: what your family can afford? The best way to make a decision is to find an option that is economically doable and emotionally acceptable for you and your parents, as well as your partner or spouse and any children living with you.

You need to evaluate your parent’s financial situation. Most adults get Senior Security, which pays for the disability, family benefits, and retirement. But for most of the elders, the amount of the monthly benefit is relatively low for paying to nurse home care and assisted living. In addition, it is often less than the requirement to afford monthly expenses even if they are living at home. To cover this gap, your parent may have investment, assets, a private retirement plan, or other sources of income to cover monthly expenses.

It is your responsibility to determine the financial status of your loved ones. This may be confusing and challenging for some people since it comes with several issues like wills, trusts, Social Security taxation, and reverse mortgages.

Think About Health Insurance Options

Elders of age 65 or more can claim for Medicare if they or one of the spouses have worked in a company for ten years that is Medicare-covered or if they are permanent citizens or residents of the United States. In addition to it, the recipients of Medicare are responsible for sharing the costs of benefits. They may also have to pay co-payments, deductibles, premiums, and co-insurance. However, Medicare cost depends on your aging parent's financial resources.

Apart from this, if your parents are eligible for Medicare, it can help you cover their Medicare costs. Moreover, if your parents have limited income, your Medicare or state will help you cover the costs. The Medicare coverage is divided into Part A and B. Part A, or hospital insurance, covers some part or all of inpatient hospital care. It includes skilled nursing, hospice care, and facilities. Part B or Medical Insurance is the standard healthcare that covers medical equipment, doctor's visits, outpatient care, home health care, and certain preventive services. Besides these two basic Medicare coverage, there is a part C and D.

Part D helps you pay for some prescription drugs. You might also need to know that Medicare will not pay for routine dental care, routine eye care, dentures, hearing aids, or routine foot care. On the other hand, Medicare Part C offers your parents to opt for Medicare benefits through a private organization. For most older adults, part C may include Part A, B, and D Medicare.

Opt for the Best Living Arrangements

Apart from making decisions for their daily tasks like changing adult diapers and health needs like medical insurance, you also need to consider their living arrangements. You need to determine where your parent can live. Their companions, environment, and existing living conditions have a greater impact on their mental and physical health. The following are the different living arrangements that your parents may need.

Type of arrangement For Who Caregiving Location Who are the caregivers Services Needed
Living at home Parents who are independent or parents who need full ADL assistance Personal residence In-home caregivers or family members Full ADL assistance, skilled healthcare, personal companionship
Independent living communities Independent parents Trailer homes, residential spaces, and rentals in communities with other seniors Professional caregiver Basic living services like transport and laundry, but no medical assistance
Assisted living communities Parents who are independent but need ADL Rentals or rooms\ in a community house Other caregivers and seniors Group meals, ADL assistance, medication, social activities, exercise, laundry, medication, transport, and housekeeping
Nursing home The parent with severe conditions or parent who require rehabilitative care Institute of nursing care On-site nursing staff Meals, full ADL, medical care and surveillance
Living with family and relatives Parents who need non-skilled healthcare, ADL assistance, and personal companionship Family or relative house Family or relatives ADL assistance, instrumental or basic

Make Yourself Power of Attorney for an Aging Parent

An older parent can become terminally ill, forgetful, or may face difficulty handling some tasks. You must think about Power of Attorney. You need to set up your POA before your parents start to show any warning signs, as an individual needs to be consciously present to assign power of attorney.

Make sure to opt for the right power of attorney, which can be implemented immediately. If you don’t have a durable POA and your elder gets ill, you will not have the authority to make medical decisions or pay for any medical bill on their behalf.

You must know that there are two types of durable power of attorney, financial POA and healthcare POA. A healthcare POA will help you make medical decisions for your parents. On the other hand, a POA for finances will help you make legal and financial decisions for your parents. In the case of more than one child, all of them can get power of attorney.

Remember Living Wills and Estate Planning

When you are thinking about your parents' caregiving, it is a good time to discuss the living wills. This can be an emotional and sensitive topic, but it is the most important aspect of caring for your parent. To make it clear, a living will is legal paperwork that indicates a person’s preferences for their end-of-life medical care.

However, this living will can only be implemented when a person gets terminally ill. These documents also include whether your father or mother is DNR (do not resuscitate) if their heart stops beating. So, if your aging parents don't have the will, call for their attorney as soon as possible.

Things You Need to Do for Yourself

This is important to understand that you also need to think about yourself while caring for your elder parents. While keeping your parents happy, try to take some time for your hobbies and interest. Make sure that your personal life is not getting affected by it. Don't leave your education or job to care for your parents and try to maintain a balance between your life and your parent’s life.

The following are some aspects that you need to consider.

Setting Boundaries

It’s true that setting boundaries between you and your parents can be challenging and may seem impossible. However, you need to learn to practice that. When caregivers just do everything without any plan and set no boundaries, no one can save them from burning out. You may think that you can talk about your necessities and maintain some normalcy while caring for your parents, but it’s challenging to refuse your ill older adult more than you think.

Healthy emotional boundaries are vital in distinguishing between the need of the person you are caring for and your needs. These boundaries keep reminding both of you that you are adults, and there should be mutual respect for your relationship to get successful.

The most important thing to get effective results is to ensure your boundaries should be firm, realistic, and clearly communicated to your parent and your fellow caregivers. For instance, one boundary that most children set is that they will never leave their job because of caregiving. This is much needed and practical. Moreover, you also need to set some boundaries to safeguard your physical and mental health. For example, your parents may call you multiple times for no important reason when you are at the office. You can ask them only to call you for emergencies while you are working.

Sit down and take your time to write some non-negotiable boundaries that you need to set no matter what happens. Do remember, you have the authority to set new boundaries whenever you need. When you see or observe that your priorities are getting ignored, look at your list and think if you and other family members have violated them.

Consider Shared Responsibility

It is important to decide what support your family members can give and who will be the primary care provider. Since the primary care provider’s role can turn into a full-time job, it is an important decision to make. Make sure to avoid making any assumptions, like I am the oldest, so I need to do this work, or my brother needs a place to stay so he can care for our father.

You need to consider that who is more willing, accessible, skilled, and emotionally prepared to play this role in your family. Then, think about what other members can contribute to the situation. Lastly, the most important thing to remember is that your parent is the shared responsibility of you and your siblings so don't take all the charge and divide the work.

Understand and Respect Family Opinions

It’s the worst feeling that your parents now need your help. You and your family may take a lot of time to adjust to this new state. Some of the children even have to work through their denial that their parents need care. Other might don’t want to get involved in the decisions because they fear to be intrusive in their parent’s life.

However, the caregiver who will be present every day with the aging parents will know that their parents are becoming dependent with the time. This is why they might want to take all decisions by themselves because they know more than others. But this can lead to problems in the family. Whether you or your other family member is giving care to the parent, they need to respect others' opinions. The best way is to discuss everything together and then decide what is best for your parents, from best adult diapers to the best healthcare faculty.

Bottom Line

In a nutshell, caregiving to an aging parent includes everything from wipes for adults to cooking meals for parents to taking them to appointments and arranging their living will. Just make sure to care for yourself in the entire process. If you want to help your parents, you should have the mental and physical strength for it.

- Written By

Sarah Johnson

Aging in Place Expert
Sarah Johnson is an Aging in Place Expert with extensive experience helping seniors remain independent and comfortable in their homes. She has specialized knowledge of how to help elderly individuals stay healthy, safe, and happy as they age. Sarah is passionate about providing quality care for aging adults, allowing them to remain in their homes and enjoy the highest quality of life.