Evaluating your parent's living needs—and abilities—is an ongoing process. And there's a range of eldercare options available to meet those shifting priorities and concerns—from the freedom of living on one's own (perhaps in a smaller place) to the supportive environment of assisted living to the round-the-clock care available at skilled nursing facilities. Each offers something different, so sorting out your options is the first step.
Approximately 30 million families are providing care to an older relative, a number that's expected to double over the next 25 years. Planning ahead for eldercare can help cut down on the financial and emotional toll of caring for a parent. If your parent is starting to show even a few signs of needing more support, it's time to start exploring the maze of options.
Sometimes called "aging in place," this is the route that the great majority of older Americans say they hope to take. Your parent is likely to need some support if he chooses to continue living on his own, although how much help he'll need will vary tremendously depending on his health and how connected he is to the community.
A good place to start looking for support is the federal Department of Health and Human Services Eldercare Locator, which can connect you with public and community-based agencies that offer services to elders in the area. You may also want to look at simple home renovations, such as adding a railing next to the toilet, as well as the growing list of gadgets that can make independent living safer and more comfortable as your parent ages.
- Is this the right option for my parent? "A good candidate has family members who are able to check on him every day," says Pat O'Dea-Evans, COO of Paxem, a Chicago-based company that helps seniors who are contemplating a move. Your parent's health is a central factor to consider—one you'll need to re-evaluate periodically as he ages. Parents who are healthy enough to perform basic functions such as cooking and bathing and who can get around safely may do well living independently.
Also look at the kind of support your parent has in the community—does he live near important services like a grocery store, pharmacy, doctors and a hospital? Is he connected to others in his neighborhood, or has he become socially isolated?
Moving to a new home
As parents age, they'll sometimes choose to move into a smaller, perhaps single-story home, sometimes in a different state in order to be closer to their children. If this is something your parent would like to pursue, consider enlisting the aide of a senior move manager, a professional who specializes in the relocation needs of aging adults.
- Is this the right option for my parent? If you or another family member wants to offer support to your parent but live too far away, relocation may be a good solution. If your parent is already living nearby and is committed to living independently, it may be wise to downsize as he gets older and a larger home becomes harder to navigate and maintain.
If your parent wants to stay in his home but is beginning to need more help, he has a number of options—from a personal care attendant, who can assist with tasks such as cooking and cleaning, to a certified nursing assistant, who can monitor your parent's medical condition and help with activities like bathing and dressing.
- Is this the right option for my parent? If your parent places a high value on privacy or the familiarity of his home and neighborhood, this may be the best choice. Finding the right match may take some time and effort, however. If your parent is cognitively impaired, you'll want to be especially cautious before going this route. Although most caregivers are trustworthy, you'll need to make sure he doesn't get taken advantage of.
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