In Counseling & Support, In-Home Services

Senior Care is a Family Issue

By Kat Vercruyssen, Certified Senior Advisor, Comfort Keepers


t takes a family working together to choose the most appropriate options to provide the best care possible for our seniors.  Our loved ones are entering a vulnerable stage in life, facing multiple concerns, loss of physical and cognitive function. They may be having difficulty expressing their wants and needs, desires and preferences. They need someone to be their advocates.  Who knows them better than family?

Eighty (80%) percent of today’s older Americans prefer to stay at home as they age.  This means families need to be more directly involved in planning for their loved ones’ care.  No individual can adequately handle the responsibilities of caregiving alone. Certainly not on top of their own responsibilities at work, with their own families and community involvement.

Parents need to be involved in every step of the decision process so they can exert as much control over their lives as possible. Typically there is one sibling who, by desire, default or proximity becomes the chief caregiver.  Deciding who that person will be is a good topic for that first conversation with aging parents.

The best outcomes often occur when all siblings share in the responsibility in some way. This could involve delegating responsibilities such as home maintenance, managing bill paying and finances, or taking care of insurance and medical claim issues. It may be decided that hiring a professional caregiver is needed to enable parents to live independently longer.

When choosing the most appropriate care for a parent, there are a number of important questions to ask:

* How do I begin talking with my parent about their daily care needs?

* How will their care be funded?

* What is the safest, most comfortable, most appropriate care option available for my parent(s)?

* Is a family member nearby who can be of immediate assistance?

* What types of help do my parents need – for instance, bathing, eating, transportation, medication reminders?

* What about religious affiliation and other personal preferences that are important to my parent(s) as they relate to choosing a care option?

* What types of senior care services are available? How do they differ? And how does each one address my parents’ needs?

Consider options that match your parent’s unique traits and temperament. For instance, is your parent typically a thinker or a socializer? Thinkers desire space and privacy and prefer independence. On the other hand, socializers are energized by people, enjoy interactions with others and act lonely without regular interaction.

Also consider your parents past living experiences. Are they accustomed to owning a home where they have acquired many valued items?  If so, they may find it difficult to leave. Or, are they accustomed to an apartment or condo?  This setting may make it easier to adjust to smaller living areas with others nearby.

What is the most important thing above all else? Start the conversation! Ask open-ended questions such as:

* Have either of you thought about whether you would want to stay in the house if you were alone?

* Would you be willing to have a caregiver from a qualified agency help you if you can’t manage cooking and housekeeping or other personal needs on your own anymore?

* Can we help you investigate quality assisted-living facilities and nursing homes now, so we know what you would prefer in case you need one in the future?

Although the questions may be difficult to answer, make sure they know they come from love and caring regardless of the answers. Solutions are available to meet your loved one’s needs and wishes as long as you know what they are.

For more information visit Comfort Keepers.

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