Struggling To Care For Your Elderly Loved Ones? Expert Opinions
Caring for elderly parents is indeed overwhelming, which is why some adult children ask eldercare experts for advice. Senior consultants, researchers who conduct studies on aging, and other eldercare experts know about the struggles of caring for elderly parents because many are experiencing—or have experienced—the same challenges.
So, experts can advise on talking with parents about their future care plans, the questions to ask when a parent with dementia has to move into a memory care facility, and how to get resistant parents and anxious adult children on the same page about care.
Talk About Care Early On
The last thing adult children want to do is talk to their parents about long-term care. What makes it difficult, experts say is the role reversal that takes place when the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child. But, the conversation has to take place, especially if parents have not made their own care plans.
Gale Morgan, senior vice president at Mather, an Evanston, Ill.-based nonprofit organization that focuses on older adults, recommends that adult children talk to their parents about the type of retirement lifestyle they want while they are still healthy.
The subject should be discussed repeatedly since parents’ circumstances can change as they age. Kathryn Lawler manages aging and health resources for the Atlanta Regional Commission in Georgia. Although she is an aging professional, Lawler said she gets anxious and finds it hard to have conversations over and over with her father about whether his plans have changed or whether his documents need updating. But, these are conversations that you have to keep having, Lawler said.
Lawler suggests that maybe one way to get past the difficulty is to change our views of aging and not see aging as a process of loss, but view it as “swapping benefits you have now for new benefits in the future.”
Determining The Type of Care Needed
Because different kinds of people need different kinds of care, senior care experts recommend adult children explore different models of care for their parents. For instance, if their parents are active seniors with chronic health conditions or mobility issues, they may want to remain independent and stay in their homes with the help of live-in caregivers. On the other hand, elderly parents in declining health may fare better in an assisted living facility.
Morgan said she wishes she had asked her parents about their lifestyle preferences while they were still healthy and did not need care because they may have moved into a continuing care retirement community. But by the time they needed care, it was too late.
Morgan said she had to coordinate care for her father who was diagnosed with dementia. Because she was a professional in issues involving aging adults, Morgan knew she needed to do extensive research on the type of memory care unit that would be best for her father. So, she asked pointed questions, such as:
Another important topic to ask specific questions about is the cost of care. It’s important to not only consider early on what type of care older adults need but how to pay for care. In some instances, a part-time home health aide might work or a live-in caregiver before you even need to consider an assisted living facility, and each has varying costs.
Reminder: Your Parents Are Not Your Children
If there’s one thing eldercare experts are against, it’s adult children dictating terms of care to their parents.
Catharine Shepard, president of Senior Care Referral Specialists in Temecula Valley, Calif., said that parents do not want to feel as if their children are dictating to them. Parents, instead, need to feel empowered when making decisions about their care.
While parents may resist their adult children’s attempt to help them make decisions on care, adult children should not threaten to put their parents into a nursing home nor should they tell their parents that they know best. Dr. Robert Kane, former director of the Center on Aging at the University of Minnesota, advises adult children to avoid “infantilizing your parents.”
According to Kane, dealing with a stubborn parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. Older people should be autonomous, he says. And, they want to be respected.