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Adult Children as Caregivers for Aging Parents: Part 1

Like many others in the Baby Boomer generation, my sister and I are both taking care of an aging parent. This is something that has become common in the last few generations due to medical advances enabling us to live longer lives.
Baby boomers are often caring for their parents while at the same time raising children. Decades ago it wasn’t uncommon to have multiple generations in a single household, but in the last few centuries families have separated and lived in nuclear family units.
For many of us, a nuclear family is the norm and caring for parents is just a new trend that we are all trying to get used to.
There comes a time, however, when we have to make the decision of possibly moving our loved one from our caring homes into a nursing home. Nursing home… even the name sounds cold to me. This isn’t a decision that we take lightly. These are our parents, after all. Didn’t they care for us throughout our growing years? They wiped our butts and changed our diapers; shouldn’t we be willing to do the same? Unfortunately, these words are often a simplification of the real issue and question and can even cause more frustration when posed to the caregiver of their loved one. Of course, this is the ideal desire, as our parents get older, so do we. We don’t have the ability physically to care for them as their health declines and the care of an older person is much different and harder than that of caring for a young child.
As a caregiver of aging parents, we have many considerations in their caregiving plan. A nursing home is one of many choices for long-term care. Other services include supports outside of an institution.  Usually, this includes a private nurse coming into the home and caring for our parents.
While this latter choice can often be funded through Medicaid, often full-time at-home nursing is not an option. At-home nursing, when it is full time, is very expensive and, unless prior arrangements had been made such as elderly insurance or savings, the price of a private home nurse is far out of the average person’s budget.
We’re finding this out first hand. At the moment we’re in the middle of looking to put my mother in a nursing home. I have to tell you that this is a very overwhelming process, and I’m not even the main caregiver for my mother. My sister is. That being said, it still doesn’t take away the frustration from the lack of knowledge and trying to jump through all the hoops needed to find a good place for my mother and still making sure it can be paid for.
My husband and I are taking care of his mother. Thankfully, she’s in a lot better shape and it could be several years before we need to have the discussion with her on whether this is something that she needs to consider. For my mother, however, this has gone past the point where it can be put off. She is no longer able to take care of any of her daily needs. Everything has to be done for her. And this is just not something my sister is able to physically do anymore.
As I said above, I’m learning a lot about the process and what needs to be done. In the first place, I found that the word nursing home is not something I need to fear. There are many nice homes out there that really do care and take care of our loved ones.
A few weeks ago, both my sisters were down in the area. Having all three of us together in one spot has become something of a rarity. While squeezing in as much fun as we could get in in the short time we were together, we also took the opportunity to visit some nursing homes. We talked to the staff and even some of the residents, they all had high praise for the homes they were living and working in.
While I can’t speak to everything I want to in this post, I do want to leave you with two points.
First, when looking at a nursing home, go there without an appointment. You’re going to want to see the facility without giving them a chance to clean up or prep the residents on what to say.
Second, make a list of questions and ask them. Ask the staff how they like working there and what the daily routine is. Ask the residents how they like living there and if they are treated well. Ask about meals and if there is accommodation for family meals and a place to stay in the last hours before their loved one passes. Spend time at the home just watching and touring. Don’t feel like any question is too “rude” or invasive. After all, this is an important decision for both you and your parent.
I wasn’t planning on making this a series, but I have just barely scratched the surface of all there is on this subject.
Until next week then…

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