Taking Care of Elderly Parents

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Your parents took care of you when you were little and couldn’t take care of yourself and, at some point as your parents age, you might have to take of them. The best circumstance is when you can have an open and honest conversation with your aging parents. Reassure them that you are there to help them and that you support their decisions. Your goal is to help your parents keep their independence as long as they care to.


Warning Signs

Look for signs indicating that your parents are unable to care for themselves. Danger signs are a sudden loss of weight; not taking medications properly; burns or injuries; letting their hygiene go; car accidents; forgetfulness; suspiciousness; small house fires; odd behavior and disorientation. If they display any of these signs, determine the reason. For example, bruising may indicate falls; weight loss could indicate your parents are not able to shop or prepare meals; disorientation could indicate Alzheimer’s. You may need to make changes in their living arrangement, but don’t make any changes without first discussing the possibilities with them.

Stay-at-Home Options

If your parents want to remain in their own home, set up the home so that your parents will be successful. For example, you can make the bathroom safer with grab bars. Clear areas in the home so that your parents can get around using a walker or a wheelchair. Set them up with a home alarm or health reporting service that alerts you if anything out of the ordinary happens, such as your parent not coming out of the bathroom. You can hire a home health aide who can help your parents with daily needs and you can arrange to have meals delivered to their home.

Alternate Housing Options

If your parents’ needs are too great to allow them to remain at home, ask whether they are willing to move to an adult community, designed for able-bodied senior citizens. These communities allow your parents to be independent, but medical care is on-site and certain services are performed for the residents, such as lawn care. Assisted living facilities are the next level and are for seniors who need meal, laundry, transportation and an on-call nurse. Nursing homes are available for people who are unable to live independently.

Insurance

Living arrangements are expensive. Some people already have plans in place to pay for the type of living facility they prefer. If your parents do not have a place picked out or finances arranged, Medicaid pays for nursing home care. Medicare does not pay for at-home or custodial care. If your parent wants more options than what Medicaid can provide, they can buy additional insurance, such as long-term care insurance.

Legal Papers

Take care of legal issues before your parents become incapacitated for any reason. You can open a joint bank account with your parents to handle financial affairs. Your parents can draw up a durable power of attorney that allows you to make financial and care decisions if they cannot. Have your parents sign a medical directive so that you can honor their wishes should they require life support.

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