The thought of transitioning an older parent into assisted living can be gut-wrenching. And with added financial incentives, some families are turning to multigenerational living arrangements: older parents move in with their adult children in order to save money, receive assistance with daily needs and avoid loneliness.
For some families, this arrangement can work well, providing for the needs of parent, child, and, potentially, grandchild. But sometimes, these arrangements can strain familial relationships or even unintentionally jeopardize an older relative’s well-being.
Sometimes the time and level of care an aging parent requires is more than younger family members can provide.
You’re probably not an expert in geriatric health care.
Older people often have complex medical needs which require several daily medicines to treat— a condition known as “polypharmacy.”
Polypharmacy situations can be quite involved. Many medicines commonly prescribed to elders have serious side effects or the potential to adversely interact with other drugs they take. So not only must you make sure mom is taking all the medications she is supposed to, when she is supposed to—you must also monitor closely for any sudden or gradual changes that would indicate a problem.
Aging parents’ medical needs can also place a strain on your ability to keep your own schedule. Driving your parent to— and waiting through— multiple doctors’ appointments, dialysis, specialist visits, and physical or respiratory therapy appointments can run you ragged and impede your ability to manage your own affairs.
You may need to make major modifications to make your home safe and habitable for an older parent.
As you know, many older people suffer from reduced mobility, sight and hearing loss, or even dementia.
And as your home was probably not designed with those specific needs in mind, you’ll likely find it necessary to install safety features and mobility aids.
If your parent uses a walker or a wheelchair, you might need to put in ramps for entrances or exits. Furniture may need to be cleared out or rearranged to make pathways wider and more easily navigable. You might even need to remodel a first floor living room or den so that it could serve as a bedroom for your parent. None of these modifications are simple or cheap.
Mealtime may become a lot more complicated.
Many older people require special diets: low-sugar for diabetics, high-calorie meals to keep up a healthy weight, low-fat/low-cholesterol for heart conditions, high-calcium diets to prevent osteoporosis, low-sodium for high blood pressure.
Sometimes, these diets must be combined when a person has multiple conditions.
Meeting these dietary needs involves extensive planning, shopping and prep time. And we’re not talking about planning for one daily meal either — you would need to provide on-spec meals for your parents three times a day.
That’s a lot to ask when you’re holding down a job and cooking for yourself, your spouse and your children.
You can’t be there every moment.
You're not a robot. You can't be awake, present and expected to know the right eldercare choice in every situation.
Providing care, especially for a senior with a degenerative condition, can be a severe physical, mental and emotional strain. Caregiver fatigue is a serious problem for family caregivers. You can run yourself ragged trying to meet all of your parent’s unique needs.
Your parents certainly wouldn’t want that for you. Older people often resist moving out of their own homes because they don’t want to be a burden to others. Moving in with you can be just that— for you and for them. If you’re exhausted and stressed, aging parents will pick up on it, placing additional stress and worry on them.
Assisted living may simply be the best option for all involved.
Moving into assisted living may be the most difficult decision you and your parents make, but if it’s no longer safe for them to live along, transitioning into retirement care may be the mostrational and most medically appropriate option.
Modern retirement communities aren’t gloomy institutions where families stash inconvenient elders. They’re clean, cheery and vibrant places where seniors can get the medical expertise and daily assistance they need with a minimal amount of invasiveness. They are places where seniors meet and spend time with their age peers, where they can participate in a full range of exciting activities and where they can stay vital in their waning years.
As with any big decision, having a plan is the key to a smooth transition.
Have a conversation now with your parents about their future care. Visit area retirement communities together and find out which ones your parent would be interested in, should a move become necessary.
Honest, open communication can go a long way toward easing fears and guilt.