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March 22, 2016

How to Help our Parents Evaluate their Care Options.

Flickr/Ulbrecht Hopper

Our parents have always been there to take care of us. It’s hard to accept that soon, it will be our turn to take care of them.

My parents are not yet ready to be put into a nursing home, but their health is declining. I worried about the “what-ifs,” so I gathered my family together, and we had “the talk” about senior care.

It was hard. There were a lot of tears—but it was a huge relief to all of us. We came up with a plan that means we don’t need to worry about those“what-ifs” anymore.

The biggest lesson I learned from having “the talk” was the importance of talking about senior care early.

Here’s why:

1. Making a plan means we can be picky. We won’t need to scramble and settle for a second-rate option if Mom or Dad unexpectedly need special care.

2. Many senior communities have waiting lists that you have to get on early. When Mom and Dad do need more care, they will have a spot waiting for them.

3. Starting early means more time to save—senior care can get expensive. Set up the correct insurance, and start saving now, so you aren’t in a pinch later.

4. It’s better to have time to talk. You, your parents and your siblings may all have different ideas of what the “best” plan is. Work it out now and avoid huge fights later.

5. Your parents get to be involved, so you won’t be making decisions for them. You’ll be making them together.

My parents were concerned that their only option would be to go to a nursing home when they couldn’t take care of themselves anymore—but there are so many more care options to consider, including aging in place, assisted living and moving in with family.

Aging in Place. This is the idea of staying in your home as long as possible while you age—this is my parent’s first choice. They want to grow old in the comfort of their home. We can always hire a home help aide or install smart home devices so that their home supports them when they need it. They won’t have to change their way of life just because they’re getting older. With a few simple home modifications, like installing grab bars and a curb-less shower, my parents won’t have to move out for a while yet.

Independent Living. Everyone likes being around people their own age. From new friends to fun activities, independent living is like going back to college. Everything my parents would need is within walking distance. They would get to live independently, in a downsized home that is easier to maintain. Independent living provides a community just for seniors, with the ability to add on more care services if needed. My parents decided they weren’t ready to move out quite yet, but they found a community that they are interested in, and they have put themselves on the waiting list so they can decide when a space becomes available.

Moving in with Family. If my parents aren’t able to maintain their home and need more care than just the occasional home help aide, they could always come live with me. Their living costs would go down and they would have my family to help them. The downsides of this option are the conflicts that come with merging two households. You have to consider if you and your family are ready to take on all that comes with having your parents move in. Do you have the time and energy to provide the care they need? My parents don’t need this option yet, but we have it in our back pocket in case of emergency.

Nursing Homes. These are the most expensive but also the comprehensive option. A nursing home means care around the clock. There are even specialized facilities that specialize in different types of care. I took my parents on a tour around our city to look at local nursing homes. If we decide to go this route, I want them to be in the best place possible—we were impressed with what we saw. If my parents need more care than I can provide them with at my home, a nursing home will make sure they are well taken care of.

A Care Option for Every Need. We can’t predict the future, and we don’t know what type of care our parents will need, but having a plan means we are prepared. My parents are going to age in place for as long as possible, and they may move to an independent living community to be around others their age. (My Mom loved the events at their community center.) After that, depending on the care they then need, they will come live with me or go to the nursing home we chose together.

At some point my parents will need more care, and now we’re ready for it. It’s much easier to plan for your aging parent’s future care while they are still too young to need it.

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Author: Arar Han 

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Ulbrecht Hopper

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