Thank you to Acts Retirement-Life Communities for sponsoring the following post. All opinions are my own.
My mom and I are quite close. Not only does she live just blocks away from my family and me, but she also spends a lot of time with my kids and me. No matter how old I get, she will always be my mom. Whenever I have a question about or problem with my children, I usually turn to her first for feedback or advice. She is only in her 50s now and is even going back to school to pursue another degree and change of careers. Based on family history, she has many decades ahead of her. But who knows what the future holds. I did not expect to lose my dad two years, only a few years after the deaths of both my grandparents.
While my own mother is still young, I did watch as she helped care for her own parents at the ends of their lives a few years ago. After my grandmother passed, my grandfather decided to move into the assisted living facility at which my mother worked. My mom helped him with the decision but ultimately allowed my grandfather the final say. Even at the end of his life, my mother made decisions based on the preferences that he had shared with my mom. As I watched my mother care for my grandma and grandpa, I learned a bit about caring for aging parents.
Know Your Role
When you find yourself caring for your parents, remember your role. You and your parents are all grown adults. You are an advocate, partner, and advisor. Your parents do not need you to direct their lives but instead need a loving and helping hand to hold along the way. Listen to your parents and assess situations together. Whenever feasible, let your parents provide input and honor their wishes. Instead of approaching the situation as “parenting your parents,” consider yourself as partnering with your parents.
One of the biggest decisions that aging parents face relates to housing. Sometimes moving from the family home into another facility is best option. Different types of facilities are available depending on the needs of your parents. Assisted living facilities provide assistance with the activities of daily living as well as medication management and administration. Nursing homes provide the same services in addition to skilled nursing care. Assisted living is more appropriate for individuals who require only some assistance while nursing homes are more appropriate when an individual needs extensive care and assistance.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) are another option for aging parents that guarantee lifetime housing, social activities, and increased levels of care as needs change. For example, Acts Retirement-Life Communities (Acts) — the largest not-for-profit owner, operator, and developer of CCRCs in the country — offers service options ranging from independent living to higher levels of care such as assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation, home health, and hospice care. CCRCs also often provide wellness programs, basic healthcare, and other amenities such as social and physical activities. A great aspect of CCRCs is that the communities often focus on keeping residents active and independent for as long as possible through the amenities offered. Whatever choices your aging parents make, remember to act as a partner in their decisions.
Growing older at any age comes with excitement and fear. I remember the mixed emotions at becoming a teenager, then an adult, and now a parent. Aging can similarly bring mixed emotions for both you and your parents. Begin by discussing and researching options sooner rather than later. When you and your parents are thinking clearly and rationally, options can be carefully weighed with less opportunity for emotions to interfere. For example, if you think that moving into a retirement community might be necessary in the future, start looking into options now. Do not wait until you are forced to make an uncomfortable decision. Assure your parents that you simply want to do your due diligence before any problems arise.
Aging is not for the faint of heart. At times your aging parents may feel overwhelmed by all the decisions that need to happen in their twilight years. As a partner to your parents, be prepared to provide options. For example, if you think that your parents may eventually need to move from the family home, provide information about the different facilities available. If your parents are interested in moving sooner rather than later, introduce the idea of a CCRC like Acts. If your parents would prefer to stay at home as long as possible, you can provide information about skill nursing facilities like nursing homes. All the decisions required as a result of aging can be overwhelming. As a partner to your aging parents, one of your most important jobs is to provide options.
In addition to providing options to your aging parents, you as a partner will need to ask questions to help your parents make the best decisions for the future. Some of the tough decisions that you and your parents will face include the following:
- Where will your parent(s) live?
- Who will pay for various expenses?
- How will your parent(s) get to doctor appointments?
- Which health insurance is/are your parent(s) eligible for?
- Who will make medical decisions if your parent(s) is/are unable to?
- How will bills be paid in an emergency?
- Who handles eventual funeral arrangements?
- Who manages property and taxes at the end?
Also be sure to listen to any questions that you parents may have for you or about their futures.
Remember One-Size Does Not Fit All
As you embark down the road as a caretaker and partner to your aging parents, keep in mind that one-size does not fit all. What works for one family may not work for another. Even what works for one parent may not work for the other. Situations may also change. Even if your parents initially wanted to remain in the family home, an illness or accident may necessitate moving to a CCRC or other facility. Remember that no two situations are ever the same. Be open to change.
No matter how old you or they get, your parents will always be your parents. Caring for your aging parents can create a tricky situation to navigate. Instead of acting as a parent to another grown adult, you as a caregiver should become a partner to your parents to help with decisions and offering reassurance. Growing older at any age comes with excitement and fear. With your help, your parents can better enjoy the twilight years of their life.
Acts Retirement-Life Communities is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit continuing care retirement community organizations. Headquartered in suburban Philadelphia, Acts currently provides housing and services to nearly 8,500 seniors through its family of 21 retirement communities in eight states and employs more than 5,700 people.
Tips for Caring for Your Aging Parents: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryekatcher/7596184322/ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) and https://www.flickr.com/photos/jacqueline-w/1768625/ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)