The baby boomer generation is fast becoming caregivers to one or both aging parents. This has become the new norm for some 45 million Americans, not to mention tens of millions more in the UK, Australia, and other English-speaking western countries.
It is often the women who carry the heaviest care-giver load. With people living longer than ever, Baby Boomers comprise the first generation to care for its parents as long as it cared for its children, and this can be a very stressful time.
When You Need Home Care For Your Aging Parents
Three things you can count on when it comes to your aging parent(s):
- They will be adamant about wanting to remain living at home
- They will hate to burden you and their other children
- Because of their fierce desire for independence, they won’t be the ones to tell you they need help
That describes those situations when the need for home care becomes obvious, giving the family time to start making enquiries.
But often the situation arises suddenly. A heart attack, a stroke or an accident can mean that a parent suddenly can’t be left unattended, not even for a few minutes. Life changes suddenly, not just for the parent but for those that have to drop everything else to look after them.
How Will You Know If It’s Time?
Here are but a few of the telltale signs that may alert you that something is amiss:
- You realize that one of your parents is leaning too much on their sturdier spouse.
- Your aging parent is no longer able to adequately perform one or more of their activities of daily living, such as bathing or moving about safely. They may also have become at high risk for falling, choking, or some other hazard of that nature.
- You’re told by a neighbor or friend that your parent’s driving is dangerous. Perhaps you see a number of dents and scratches on the family car or on the garage door. Maybe just going for a drive with them is enough to give you the full (and frightening) story.
- In other instances your parent’s changes in habits may become obvious. No longer are they taking as much care with their appearance, or their home or yard has become untidy and cluttered.
Developing a Plan of Action For Your Aging Parents
There are several elements to an effective strategy, starting with determining if it’s time to hire a caregiver—or “carer” in some countries.
- Hiring a professional caregiver is simple enough providing the family can afford the cost. In the US, and depending on where you live, you can count on a home care agency charging you anywhere from $25 to 35 an hour—at the lower end if you live in a rural area, and at the higher end if in high cost of living areas.
- Hiring a caregiver directly would naturally cost you less, but it would entail you doing what an agency does: recruiting, interviewing, vetting, insuring or bonding, and filling-in for caregivers when they need time off.
- Before you start contacting your local home care agencies, make sure your parents are in on the plan, and establish with them what number of hours per day and per week might be ideal for a start. Not involving them in the planning may bring you unnecessary headaches when a caregiver first shows up at their door.
Two Other Critical Elements of the Plan
Who among the siblings and other members of the family will be responsible for:- Overseeing the care
– Financial and legal matters (powers of attorney, living wills)
– Doctors, prescriptions, and other health mattersFor Baby Boomers with aging parents, it’s prudent to count on emergency-type surprises, and you simply don’t want to have to squabble with your siblings at a time of crisis.
Long-term housing considerations
Is it time to sell and downsize your parents’ home? And what is the plan for their long-term housing? Will they remain at home for as long as possible, or consider moving elsewhere at some point in the future?
Tread Gently When “It’s Time”
Some of the decisions entailed in the above considerations can be quite traumatic for your aging parents. Put yourself in their shoes: how would you like it to suddenly have a stranger roaming in your kitchen and bedroom, or have to consider moving out of the home you’ve lived in for all those years?
The wise path is to tread gently while, at the same time, ensuring that your aging parents remain entirely involved in such momentous decision-making processes.