A stressed-out daughter told me the other day “They should offer classes on caring for parents in high school and college! You wouldn’t think finding care would be this hard!” This lady was at her wit’s end trying to figure out what is available and appropriate for her parents. So, what IS out there? When you’re looking for help with an aging loved one, what are your options? Here they are, in a nutshell:
1) Do it all yourself. Most families begin with this choice, especially when care needs are few. Care becomes more difficult when a parent needs assistance with several daily activities like driving, laundry, housekeeping, cooking, bathing, and paying bills. Doing all care personally may eventually require nearly 100 percent of your time and effort, or may require that you live with your parents or they live with you. Burnout and stress are common pitfalls, and older adults who spend most of their time at home often lack age-appropriate socialization and experience loneliness.
2) Hire help at home. Sometimes a family friend or neighbor is willing to take the job, or you may find an individual with good recommendations. There are also caregiving agencies that will supply you with a caregiver, some handle background checks, call-ins, and other issues for you. Hiring in-home care can be one of the most costly and time intensive options. Socialization for the older adult is often limited to one-on-one interaction with the hired caregiver.
3) Assisted Living services: Assisted living residences generally provide an apartment, along with additional services such as meals, housekeeping, laundry, and personal care. Transportation is usually available, along with activities designed to encourage social interaction. Assisted living can give a parent and child a level of privacy and peace of mind, while allowing both to maintain some independence. Older adults can regain a feeling of autonomy since they aren’t “at the mercy” of family and friends to meet their needs. Lonely seniors benefit greatly from the peer socialization that naturally occurs in an assisted living environment. Often, assisted living is significantly more affordable than hired in-home care.
4) Residential Care Homes/Dementia care. Residential care homes provide care for 5 to 8 people in a house. Some dementia care can be done through a residential care home, or an assisted living. Precautions are taken for residents who wander, including security codes and fenced outside walking areas. These smaller homes offer limited activity and socialization opportunities.
5) Nursing Homes. Nursing homes are medical facilities that provide nursing care around the clock, and most offer rehabilitation services such as physical and occupational therapy. While nursing homes are covered by Medicare and Medicaid to some extent, private payment at a nursing home is costly.
6) Sliding scale housing/community services. Area Council on Aging organizations set up senior centers, sometimes providing a noon meal, organized activities, and limited transportation for seniors, often at little to no charge. Sliding scale housing developments provide low-cost rental housing, are age and income restricted.
Choosing the best care option or combination of options takes time, good communication, and plenty of flexibility. Don’t be daunted by the overwhelming amount of information, but keep persisting until the right solution emerges for you and your family.