On the Homefront: Mom and Dad Are a Changin’

Todd Washburn |

One joy of the holiday season is visiting family and friends.  Maybe you got to go back to the old homestead and catch up with Mom and Dad.  Was everything the way you remembered it?  Were Mom and Dad?  Maybe you found yourself whispering to your sister “Does Mom seem to be repeating herself a lot?  Can Dad really make it up and down the stairs?”  If you haven’t seen them for a while, the changes may be quite dramatic.  And scary.

 A friend of mine is a Geriatric Care Manager. He tells me that January can be a busy month for him.  He gets calls from children who visited locally and are now looking for help for their parents, as well as local folks whose parents live out of state.  Unlike the old days, parents and children often don’t live near each other and helping your parents isn’t quite as simple as dropping by every day.  So what do you do?

First you need to understand your situation and your options. In regards to your situation, the question is can Mom still safely live by herself?  Could she if she just had a little help?  Or is she a danger to herself or others (leaves the stove on, forgets her medications)?  You may not feel comfortable or qualified to make that assessment, especially if you don’t live nearby.  But someone needs to.

Second, what are your care options?  They may vary greatly from place to place, but in general you have some standard options.  You could pay for a non-medical assistant to come in for a few hours a day or week to do things your parents can’t, like clean, cook, or maybe offer assistance with bathing.   Maybe she needs a person to help with medication reminders.  It could be that a change of location is all that’s needed- moving from the two-story home to a one story home or apartment.  Or maybe he really needs to be in an assisted living or nursing facility.  These offer various levels of round the clock assistance/supervision.  Your parent(s) may resist your help.  They’re scared of losing their independence, or they just don’t realize the changes they’ve experienced.

Third, who can help you?  Many states and counties have offices for the aging that offer resources and information.  Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov) is an online government clearinghouse for finding services in the area your parents live.  Geriatric Care Managers are folks trained in issues of the elderly and assist families in putting together a care plan, researching options, and getting Mom the help she needs.  They can be a good option, especially if your parents don’t live nearby.  The Aging Life Care Association (formerly The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers) has a website (www.aginglifecare.org) with a lot of helpful information as well a database to search for a qualified manager.  Some people find one where they live and have that person help them locate and screen one closer to their parents.  In addition, there are many private companies that provide individuals to go into the home and assist as needed.
This is a difficult situation.  Many baby-boomers are dealing with these issues with their parents, and in turn wondering what they should do to spare their kids the worry when their time comes.  There are ways to handle it- including the cost.  But, it takes planning and open communication between generations.  If you’re worrying about it, it’s a safe bet your children are too.  Work with them, with a financial planner, with a geriatric care manager to put a plan together to relieve some of the worries you have about your parents and to make it so your children don’t have to worry either.