Issues Facing Senior Citizens Who Have Elderly Parents

Senior Concerns With Elderly Parents

Increasingly, because we are healthier human beings and are living longer, those of us in retirement find ourselves with elderly parents in their 80s and 90s and even 100s. Because of their age and increasingly frail conditions, we also find ourselves needing to be available to care for them or to find care centers for them depending upon their level of independence or dependence.

Some of our parents are able to still care for themselves.  A true miracle!  Others of us find our parents needing various levels of daily care, and are thus faced with finding a care facility geared to their level of need.  Still others of us lack the resources to place our parents in a care facility, and are faced with caring for them ourselves. So what are the issues for those of us in each of the three categories just described?

If we lack resources for out of home care for elderly parents, we need to look at how to best care for our parents in our own home. First, no one can do that 24/7 and maintain one’s own good health.  We need assistance from other family members in our own home, or we need to step up to the plate and offer our own fair share of time caring for our parent(s) in another family member’s home.

A second consideration also needs to be explored:  If our elderly parent is unable to pay for out of home care, it is highly possible he/she would qualify for the local state aid program for elderly people.  A visit to the local county welfare office may provide information about qualifications.  Or a visit with the social worker at local care facilities may prove helpful in determining the parent’s eligibility for financial aid for living in a care facility.  What is important is to take the steps necessary to determine viable options.

If we find our elderly parent(s) need some level of daily care in a care facility (assisted living or specialized nursing home care), and they have the resources to pay for such care, our role is to assist them in finding the one that best suits their daily needs and that they find most comfortable for their desires. Their choice might not be our choice, when we reach that point in our own lives.  But we need to be respectful of their choice and support it unless there are glaring problems that they are refusing to consider.

Once their choice is made and they have made the move to the care facility, we need to recognize they are being cared for on the level they require, and then back off!  Guilt may be a problem in this situation; we may feel it necessary (guilt) to be available for almost daily visits, but we need to recognize that as our own guilt and own it.  We need to do appropriate monitoring and be sure our parent is being cared for adequately, but we do not need to be present every day to do the caring. Frequent visits make sense in terms of staying in touch with one’s parent.  Daily visits will likely interfere with them being able to become part of the life of the care facility and take advantage of programs and events professionally designed to help them take best advantage of their age and stage in life.  We need to admit that they probably have better care than we can provide, and many elderly people adjust well to living in a care facility, enjoy it, and eventually prefer to spend time with their friends there than with visiting family.

The third category is those senior citizens who have parents in their 80s and 90s who are still living independently in their own homes.  They are happy and content there, and generally speaking, can still take care of their daily needs. Considerations for senior citizen ‘children’  in this category are somewhat different than the other two categories just described.  Some monitoring (not daily!) is necessary to insure the elderly parent is getting adequate nutrition and household chores are being managed appropriately by someone.  Elderly parents in this category can frequently afford household help.  Elderly parents in this category may need help getting to and from the supermarket and other shopping errands; they may need assistance getting to and from medical appointments; and they likely enjoy visits from friends and family that take them out for a meal and good conversation.

We don’t pretend to suggest these are the only considerations we face when caring for elderly parents.  Please leave your comments and give us an opportunity to start a dialogue to expand our thoughts about this increasingly common phenomenon.