~Shelley Webb, Taking Care of the Folks
It is becoming more and more common for elderly parents to move in with their children. This arrangement can be beneficial for many aging mothers or fathers but if not thought out properly can drastically change the lives of everyone in the household, including the aging loved one.
There are several reasons why aging parents move in with their adult children. Some of the common reasons include:
- Ailing health or illness
- Negative opinions of institutional care
- Poor institutional care
- Cost of medical caregivers
- Financial reasons
Before aging parents move in with their adult children, several considerations must be made. The first consideration before parents move in with their adult children is to decide if you are able to handle the task of caregiving. It is often daunting and time-consuming and may interfer with the current family dynamic. You need to know that it will not get much easier as time passes. But you also need to know that it can be very rewarding and a great experience to provide care and compassion to your aging loved one and that you will get to learn more about their life experiences.
When an aging parent of loved one moves into your home, it is much like having a toddler in the home again. The house must be “elder-proofed”. Things that break must be put away. Decorative throw rugs must be secured VERY well or taken out of the room altogether. If your parent has dementia, the kitchen might need to be rearranged so that items can be found by the elder more easily. There will be doctor’s appointments, lab tests, physical therapy, extra trips to the store, possible hair dresser appointments, etc.
The television may be VERY loud when an elder is listening to it. There may be “accidents” in the bathroom or elsewhere. There will be dirty handprints all along the walls as elders search for a place to stabilize their walking. Glasses, hearing aids, wallets and dentures will “disappear” daily.
The second thing to consider is physical living arrangements. In some cases, the children may move into the home of their parents. In other cases, it is the parents moving into the homes of their children. Some families do not have any space in either home and so an additional room or suite is built on one of the existing properties. This should be taken care of first, if time and the situation permit. If a spare bedroom is available, it should be fixed up to accommodate the parents. Adjustments will have to be made, depending on the condition of the parents. Some common adjustments made for parents are:
- Replacing traditional doorknobs with handles for ease of opening
- Remove or reposition furniture that is obstructing walking areas
- Install grab bars in the bathroom – towel bars will not work and WILL be pulled down
- Securing any slipping floor surfaces such as rugs (or remove them altogether)
- Add motion detector lights to hallways and bathrooms because of decreased vision in the elder
- Widen doorways for wheelchairs or walkers if budget allows
- Install ramps or lifts if needed and if budget allows
The children of the elderly parents should be completely aware of all the medical conditions of their parents. They should be familiar with their doctors and specialists. Being a good caregiver is being an informed caregiver. Children should be aware of their parent’s prescribed medications, their side effects and if they are taking them correctly. They should be familiar with emergency response procedures for common mishaps or medical conditions.
If your parent is moving into your home for financial reasons, care costs should also be discussed with siblings and arrangements should be made to split any extra costs. Often one sibling will provide most of the physical care giving while another might choose to help out financially. Cost-of-living should be estimated so concrete numbers can be discussed.
If able, the parent should also pick up part of the bill. Ideally, payments can be made to the children from savings. However, many elderly parents have exhausted any savings with medical care or other matters by the time they move in with their children. If the parents have no savings, it is acceptable to ask for a percentage of any monthly pensions or social security. Don’t feel compelled to become financially distressed just because you feel that it is your duty to care for them. The money that they have saved is just for this very reason…..their care.
Although most children and parents have relationships based on love and mutual caring, in some circumstances it may be necessary to draw up a financial contract. This is also a good protection for the caregiving child and will help to show siblings where the paren’s money is going. Proof of expenses may also be needed for any government services the parents may take advantage of or may want to take advantage of in the future (especially Medicaid who requests proof of spending 5 years previous to the date of application). If you have a financial advisor or attorney, it may be beneficial to talk to them this. In some situations, the children’s income can also affect benefits available to the parent. On the bright side, there may be tax deductions that the children can take for providing care for their parents.
It may also be possible that even though parents are safely living with their children that no one is home during the day. For cases such as this day-time caregivers may need to be hired or the services of an adult daycare center may be needed. Recreation centers for the elderly do exist and sometimes they can even provide transportation. Remember that if your parent has dementia, it will be even more important to monitor their where-abouts. A change in living environment will cause some increased confusion for awhile and may cause them to wander.
For more information and for additional resources to help with caring for your parents at home, contact Raleigh Geriatric Care Management: www.rgcmgmt.com