After Carol M.'s mom broke her hip in a car accident, Carol tried setting up live-in home care, only to find it costly and isolating for Mom and burdensome for Carol, who still found herself stopping in every day to do tasks the home health aide could not do. With Mom's consent, Carol located an assisted living facility that would provide meals, help with medications and allow Mom to be among friends and socialize.
"I definitely feel less stress now, and I feel good about it because Mom likes it there," Carol says.
The need for extra care for Mom or Dad can sneak up on the children, who may notice — or choose not to see — signs that their parents are no longer able to manage. Often, a crisis such as Carol's mom's broken hip forces the issue.
Signs that say it's time for a change
As a family caregiver, when you are under stress it is much more difficult to make good decisions. To preempt a crisis situation, Aileen Morales-Rabizadeh, eldercare liaison for Dignity in the Golden Years in Rockaway, New Jersey, advises children of older parents to check in often and look for these signs:
When daily living goes wrong
The issues described above relate directly to what are referred to as activities of daily living (ADL), a set of activities that determine whether or not an elder is able to remain at home living alone. "What determines the level of care a person needs is the number of and type of activities of daily living they can no longer carry out," says Robert F. Bornstein, Ph.D., co-author of "When Someone You Love Needs Nursing Home, Assisted Living, or In-Home Care: The Complete Guide," and a psychology professor at New York's Adelphi University.
Difficulty with basic needs is usually a signal that assisted living or nursing care is required. Dr. Bornstein divides activities of daily living into two types: complex tasks, such as shopping, cooking and managing money, and basic needs, such as bathing, using the bathroom and dressing appropriately for the weather.
Types of care
Because most people want to remain independent and live in their own home, as a caregiver you may want to walk the road of care from the most independent to the least. Take note of the following:
Important documents to have on hand
Choosing care isn't just a matter of assessing needs and touring facilities. Finances and legal documents often dictate the options. These steps will help ensure a smoother transition when the need arises:
Setting up care for aging parents is a learning experience. One of the most important lessons, says Dr. Bornstein: Start early. "As you help your parents prepare for their later years, use that information to make preparations for yourself," he advises. "Everything you're doing for them, you should be doing for you."