As your parents age, sometimes caring for their own home can become too physically demanding. Sometimes just taking care of their day-to-day personal needs presents the need for help. As a family member, it may become your responsibility to help make decisions on what changes might be necessary in order for them to stay in their home, or whether or not a move is necessary. If a move is necessary, then to what type of facility?
If you want to keep your parents in their own home as long as possible, there are several areas to be considered. Is the home set up to handle the physical needs of your aging parent? Are the bedroom, the bath, the kitchen and the laundry all accessible and on one level? Is the home in a safe neighborhood? Can you obtain help to take care of outside home maintenance, home repairs yard work, snow removal and the like? If the answer to these questions is yes and your parents are still able to take care of most of their personal needs, staying in the house can be an option. Eventually, however, staying in the home can necessitate the need for other services such as meals and/or personal care. These types of services can often be arranged.
If in the decision process it is deemed that staying in their home would not be the practical solution, what other housing options are there? Today there are numerous options depending on the needs of your parents as well as their financial well being.
If money is a concern, there is government subsidized housing for seniors. It provides safe housing that frees your parents from the worries of home maintenance. Often services are not available from the facility, but can be added by hiring private help or by utilizing programs such as Meals on Wheels.
Other options include retirement communities. They can provide independent living in apartments or duplexes, sometimes all the way through to skilled nursing care. They provide maintenance free housing plus a vast array of services depending on the level of care.
How do you decide on the level of care? This is sometimes very difficult for families since it’s hard to be objective about your own parents. Start with trying to take an objective look at your parents. Observe how well they are managing their home. How much help do they have? Have they let things slip? Are repairs not made that would have been attended to five or ten years ago? Is their home safe and can they get around well in it? Are your parents taking care of themselves, are meals prepared, do they manage their own medications, are they dressed appropriately, and are they bathing regularly?
Do your parents still drive? Have you ridden with them lately? Are they safe? Do you feel comfortable letting them drive? Do they have a valid driver’s licence? Do they have care insurance? If they are unable to keep driving, a facility with transportation should be high on your list.
If you have trouble being objective, talk with other family members about their observations, and consult with the family doctor, family friends or current neighbors for additional input. If your parents currently have help, ask them how your parents are managing. Is more help needed?
Retirement communities are starting to develop assessment tools to help place people in the appropriate level of care. If an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in involved, Alzheimer’s facilities will do interviews to help with decisions on placement and ability to live independently. Assessment tools include issues such as:
1) shops for food, plans well balanced meals and prepares them
2) shops for prepared meals and prepares them at appropriate times
3) can head prepared meals if reminded; does not eat well alone
4) is not safe using kitchen appliances
5) wants meals prepared and served
1) sees doctor, gets prescriptions filled, knows the instructions for all medications, keeps current list in billfold
2) sees doctor, knows what to take by color of pill (and when to take), does not understand all drugs
3) takes medications set out in a med-minder at appropriate times
4) does not know when to take medications or what medications to take; just periodically takes pills
1) knows without prompting to bathe regularly, comb hair, brush teeth; takes pride in good grooming
2) may need help with bathing, but still brushes teeth and combs hair without prompting
3) must be helped with bathing and prompted to comb hair and brush teeth
4) needs some assistance with bathing, combing hair and brushing teeth because of physical impairment
5) needs prompting and assistance with all hygiene
Using these guidelines, you too can assess how your parent is progressing. If most of your answersimply that prompting and assistance is needed, you should consider looking at assisted living or skilled nursing care.
It’s not easy, but doing your homework and truly assessing the needs of a parent can prevent having to make several moves to obtain the proper environment and services.
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