When my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s many years ago, my mom was still healthy. She took on many of the caregiver responsibilities – but she needed help, too. That’s when we really started to consider long-term care options.
Before then, I didn’t realize the sheer amount of options there are when it comes to long-term care. Each facility is different and comes with its own set of positives and negatives, so it’s important to think through what you want before you make a decision.
Sings It May Be Time to Consider Long-Term Care Options
A few years after my dad’s health issues came about, my in-laws ran into their own issues: their large, beautiful home and big yard were becoming more work than they could handle. When health crises began popping up every few months, it became obvious that they could no longer live there. Still, they refused.
It took years of conversations before they eventually moved into an independent living facility – and even then they were staunchly against moving to an assisted living facility. All this is to say that the sooner you begin having these discussions, the better.
You want to start thinking about your options before you see any warning signs, either mental or physical.
Mental signs are sometimes hard to spot unless you interact with someone fairly regularly. We all forget things occasionally, right? But you should still keep an eye out for common warning signs, including:
- Increased forgetfulness
- Risky driving
- Repeating stories several times in a short period of time
- Remembering early times as if they happened yesterday
- Not calling you by your first name or someone else name
- Forgetting medications
Obviously, some of these are more alarming than others; use your best judgment in these cases to determine whether it’s time to take action.
Physical symptoms of aging are more easy to spot. These can include:
- Trouble taking care of simple tasks
- Hunched over or not moving around as much
- Unsteady walking, tripping or falling
- Sleeping longer than usual
- Not having food on hand; can’t get to the grocery store
Once you notice these signs, it may be time to have a serious conversation with your parent(s). Need some help getting started? Check out our top tips on how to talk about aging with your parents.
In-Home Long-Term Care Options
Want to give your parents extra help without a big move? In-home care might just be the perfect answer.
Take care of them yourself
If you are at a place where you can care for your parents yourself, then this could be worth considering, but that can be especially hard if you’re working outside the home. While taking care of your parents yourself costs much less in terms of money, it represents the largest time investment and can be more stressful than other options.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, you just want to keep in mind that having aging parents in your house is similar to having kids in the house – you can’t leave them alone and you may need to help them perform various tasks throughout the day, such as getting dressed, going to the bathroom and preparing food.
Hire an in-home nurse/care assistant
If keeping your parents at home (either theirs or yours) is important to you, then you’ll probably want to consider hiring an in-home nurse or care assistant. While this is clearly a more expensive option than caring for your parents yourself, it can give you more freedom to get out of the house every now and then knowing that there’s someone at home who can take care of them.
But, like I said, there’s a financial trade-off for that freedom. In-home care can cost upwards of $150 per day or more depending on your location and needs.
However you may just need a few hours a day to take care of other things. This option works well for those that just need a break for a short period of time.
Hire other kinds of help
If you live far away or just can’t get to your parents’ house often enough, you can also hire someone to handle cooking, cleaning and/or landscaping duties. Looking at a Genworth study, hiring someone for homemaking services (cooking, cleaning, assistance with shopping, general home management) costs a little over $6,000 per month depending on the services.
You don’t necessarily have to hire someone for every area your parents may need help. For instance, if your parents don’t already use it, you could teach them how to order groceries online to be delivered or for curbside pickup. Or finding someone to just mow their lawn.
Out-of-Home Long-Term Care Options
Just like in-home long-term care options, you have a lot of options available for out-of-home care. While the cost is generally higher with these, they also typically mean lower stress and time cost.
“Retirement” is the umbrella term that covers several types of facilities, including independent living, assisted living and other retirement facilities.
Residents of independent living facilities typically inhabit a home, condo or apartment on a specially-equipped property. It’s basically like renting, with a few extra perks, like staff that provide some services (be careful what the fine print says!), promote social activities and take care of all the outside work on the property.
There are different levels of support depending on the specific facility and whatever level of care residents may want or need. This type of facility is best suited for aging parents that can still do all the basics themselves but need an extra hand here and there.
Assisted living is similar to independent living but more involved, and usually with a higher price tag. This option is for those who need more hands-on help with laundry, taking medications or completing any other daily activities. There is usually meals included and someone on hand 24-7 to take care of health issues. Be sure to ask what is included in the price and what are extra charges.
There’s little time investment needed on your part, and you have the added comfort of knowing staff are checking in on your parent(s) regularly – but it’ll cost you more.
Other Retirement Facilities
There are a few other types of retirement facilities to keep on your radar, such as MemoryCare. MemoryCare facilities cater specifically to individuals struggling with Alzheimers or other dementias.
Adult foster care facilities are a type of long-term care that provide a smaller, cozier home life.
Lastly, you may also want to research Continuing Care Retirement Communities, which are homes that offer several different types of care ranging from independent living to assisted living. These campuses can make transitions between types of care easier for both you and your aging loved one.
The costs and time investments of these facilities vary by location and services rendered, so make sure to research facilities that make the most sense for your situation.
Covering Costs: Long-Term Care Insurance
Did you know that there is special insurance designed to help you cover the cost of long-term care? It’s aptly named “long-term care insurance.”
A few things to keep in mind as you browse plan options: Look into it before you (or your parents) hit age 60. If they haven’t enrolled in a plan by age 75, it may be too late to gain much in the way of coverage.
Also be aware that there are hybrid annuity/long-term care options available, and even partnership programs in certain states that may eliminate tax costs when benefits are paid.
Long-term care is expensive, whether you’re looking at in-home or out-of-home options. To explore which options fit in best with your financial plans, I recommend you work with a trusted financial advisor.
5 Tips for Helping Your Aging Parents Get Organized
Wherever your parent will be living, it’s important to help them reduce as many physical demands in their environment as they age, like removing clunky furniture, reducing trip hazards and improving lighting. Sorting through files, streamlining access to important information and reducing the clutter of paperwork (bills, investment records, etc.) is helpful too.
Here are five quick tips to help your parent get organized:
1. Take Stock
Assess your parent’s situation and put a plan together. Go through their home and identify potential problems. Is their attic, basement and/or garage overstuffed? Are their kitchen cabinets or pantry filled with expired cans of food?
Caution – keep your judgements to yourself. Even if your parent is driving you insane, try to be as accommodating as possible. Resist the temptation to just start throwing stuff away or forcing him/her to make decisions they are reluctant to make.
2. Consider all Contingencies
Moving furniture and trip hazards such as throw rugs is a good thing. But you should consider acts of God-type events that can impact your less than spry parents. Make arrangements before an emergency or disaster occurs and if needed, assist them with that process. Some things to do:
- Exchange keys or key codes for easy access
- Create one spot for emergency supplies and keep it stocked
- Be sure to keep relevant emergency documents, evacuation plans and health information is in a location known by everyone in the family
- Practice methods for contacting each other in an emergency and don’t rely on telephones working
- Notify a personal support network when going out of town and when you’ll return
For more information about emergency preparedness for seniors, check out the Red Cross website.
3. Try out the Four Box System
The PBS affiliated Next Avenue suggests creating four spaces/boxes to divide up the ‘stuff’ your parents have accumulated. Start small. Take one room at a time. Sort their possessions using the system. The boxes can be:
- “Keep Until I Die” for items with sentimental value like true family heirlooms, personal letters, photo and scrapbook albums and wedding china.
- “Appraise and Sell” for unwanted items of value.
- “Keep with Me” for unsentimental items like furniture and art.
- “Garage Sale/Donate” for unwanted items.
4. Take it slow (if you have the luxury of time)
Unless you are challenged by a tight deadline like a serious illness or moving date, the process should be an ongoing one over a period of weeks or months. Not in a day or over a long weekend. Sorting, cleaning and eliminating a lifetime of stuff is an emotional exercise and can easily overwhelm everyone involved.
5. Call an expert
Craigslist, TaskRabbit and services like Home Helpers can assist. They are a great resource if you live far away from your parents and want to make sure they get the help needed.
Learn More with Clarity
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