You’re not sure where the time went, but suddenly you’ve turned around only to discover your parents have gotten old – elderly even. Now, they may be having a difficult time on their own or perhaps they’ve gotten sick. In any case, you want to help them, but you’re not sure how.
We recommend following these tips for caregivers of elderly parents:
- Consider how much time, if any, you’ll need to take off from work
- If caring for your parents at home, keep the medical professionals involved
- Let others step in to help if they offer
- Don’t blow through your retirement or other savings
- Remember to take care of yourself, as well
In this article, we’ll expand on the above tips in more depth, providing you the information you’ll need to make the tough decisions on the best care for your elderly parent(s). We’ll also delve into The Family and Medical Leave Act and what that may mean for you, as well as how to deal with reluctant or downright stubborn elderly parents.
Caregiver’s Rights (The Family and Medical Leave Act)
Let’s begin by discussing the rights you have as a caregiver. These are outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act (or FMLA) through the U.S. Department of Labor. This act, coined in 1993, often covers care for new members of the family, such as babies. However, it extends to elderly or ill family members as well.
The FMLA lets employees take a period of time off from work to enter the role of caregiver. This can occur anytime over 12 months and can last for approximately 12 weeks. During this sabbatical, the employee does not receive payment from their employer.
Certain jobs and roles prohibit participation in the FMLA. These include those who are considered “highly compensated” individuals, as well as elected officials like politicians.
Even if you can take the time off, there are still some restrictions that apply to private and public sector workplaces. For instance, you must not work in a small office, because if your place of employment has less than 50 workers, the FMLA rules no longer apply. The same is true if you have not worked 1,250 hours in a year or you haven’t been with your current company for at least a year. In these cases, you wouldn’t qualify for the FMLA.
Tips for Caring for Elderly Parents
Now that you’re aware of how long you can leave work to help care for an elderly parent, let’s expand on the tips we covered in the introduction:
Consider How Much Time You’ll Take off Work
When our parents need us, our first inclination will, of course, be to rush to their side. If their need is great, you may contemplate quitting your job to assist your parent with around-the-clock care. Your thought may be that you’ll save money by doing this (since you won’t have to hire a nurse), but you also will probably rationalize that you’ll be there to offer your parent the care you know they need.
It’s not always financially feasible to quit your job and care for your parent full-time, however. Keep in mind that you won’t (likely) be getting paid to do this work. Leaving your job and letting your spouse shoulder the burden of paying the bills on a single income is a huge responsibility – and not a very fair one to place on someone.
That said, if you dip into your savings or take retirement money early (such as from a 401k), you may be resentful years later if you have to work longer than you had originally planned to because you don’t have enough money saved up. This is one reason why the FMLA exists.
Before you quit, talk to your employer or Human Resources department to get their recommendations. For instance, perhaps you don’t need take all twelve weeks off at one time, but could just take one or two weeks per month to step in and help with your parent. You would still be losing money since you won’t get paid while off work under the FMLA, but it’s not as big of a financial loss as it would be if you just quit your job outright.
Keep the Medical Professionals Involved
I know you know your parent and you may think you know best, but remember that you’re not a doctor. Don’t refuse certain medical help for your parent, especially if they have an illness, injury, or condition. Instead, accompany them to all their appointments. Talk to their doctor about things you’ve noticed, such as certain symptoms.
You don’t necessarily need (or maybe can’t afford) a live-in nurse for your parents, and that’s okay. Just don’t avoid all medical assistance.
Accept Other Help, Too
If you have siblings, they may suggest they look after your parents for a few hours, days, or even weeks so you’re not doing everything yourself. Your neighbors, friends, and other family members could offer to step in as well.
It can feel embarrassing to admit you need help, especially with an elderly parent. However, I know from personal experience that it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with such a big role.
There’s no one roadmap to success, as every situation is different. Even if someone just does something simple like taking your dog out for a walk or driving the kids to the park, it can help a lot. Let the people who are kind enough to volunteer their time step in.
If you will be (or are considering) privately hiring a live in caregiver – please consider purchasing (for a low cost) the Live-In Caregiver Contract (Elderly) provided by FindLegalForms, Inc.
Think of Your Long Term Future, Too
If you have an elderly parent who is your primary responsibility, it’s easy to focus on nothing but the here and now. People don’t want to think too far ahead because it stresses them out.
That’s a mistake, though. You won’t always be taking care of your senior parent. Perhaps it becomes time to put them in a nursing home or maybe another sibling takes on your care role. Sadly, elderly parents also pass away. What will happen when you stop sinking time and money into their care? Will there be anything left?
As we mentioned earlier in this article, by going through all your money too soon because you quit work and spent your savings, your future may be bleak. You might not be able to retire for many years because you can’t afford to stop working.
Not only do you need savings for your retirement, but you’ll need it for other long-term ventures as well. What if you want to get a different house? How will you pay for your children to go to college? When your elderly parent does pass away, will you be able to shoulder the funeral costs?
These are just a few of the reasons why you must have a nest egg that you don’t touch, as hard as it may be to resist dipping into it.
Since we’re talking about finances here – let me also mention the importance of speaking to your parents about their finances.
A wonderful book that I can recommend is Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations with Your Parents About Their Finances. It’s filled with great information on not only how to talk to your parents about this topic but also gives you a guide through the process.
How Can I Get Help with My Elderly Parents?
Besides getting the time off work so you can take care of your elderly parents, what kind of other help exists to help you with their needs? Here are some options you can explore:
- Meal services to ensure your parents get fed. Most states have some type of Division of Aging Services (Department of Human Services) that may provide meals at a senior center (which will also help keep an elderly person socially active).
- Home monitoring systems so you can keep an eye on your parents even when you can’t physically be there.
- Financial aid to make paying for their care more manageable.
- Caregiving services like assisted living, live-in nurses, visiting nurse, or nursing homes if you so choose.
- Medicaid and other government programs, which can also lessen your financial strain (more on these shortly).
- Support groups to talk to others who understand what you’re going through.
How Can I Help My Elderly Parents from Afar?
What if you can’t take care of your parents because of proximity or another reason? We still recommend you visit them as often as you can. This might not be weekly, but try to do biweekly or at least monthly trips. But we also acknowledge that this is not always possible.
After all – if you live 3000 miles away – making monthly trips to visit your elderly parent can be cost prohibitive.
But, you can certainly stay in touch with their doctors and other medical professionals so you’re abreast of any health changes your parents may experience. Also, keep in close contact with whomever is acting as their nearby caretaker to get updates on your parent’s condition.
The technology available today for home monitoring systems can greatly reduce a caregiver’s concerns and anxiety concerning their aging parents.
New research published today (September 10, 2019) by CPR Global Technology reveals as many as three in five (57%) over 40s pick up the phone at least once a day just to check that their parents are okay. But almost a fifth feel intrusive for doing so, with one in six (16%) saying that their parents’ independence is the thing they most worry about. – gateway978.com
One product we can recommend to help you monitor your senior loved one is Amazon’s Echo Show which can be used to make video phone calls no matter how far away you are.
How To Use Echo Show To Make Phone Calls
- To make a call you simply say “Alexa, call “name of the person you want to call”
- As long as their name is in your list of contacts – Alexa will make the call
How To Set Up Phone Calls For Echo Show
- First, make sure your Echo Show is a minimum of 8 inches away from any wall or window
- You can only make calls to people who are listed in your contact list on your phone so make sure you have everyone in your phone
- This feature is automatically available on all Alexa / Amazon Echo devices
Another product that may work for you as well is the Morvelli FullHD 1080p WiFi Home Security Camera (pictured to the left) run around $40 – $60. This makes them cheap enough that you could install one in a couple of different areas of your parent’s house – especially helpful for checking on them if they aren’t able to get around very well.
This particular camera works by motion detection that alerts you when someone moves around in the house. It has a two-way audio camera so you can see and talk to your parents via the app and camera to ensure they are doing well. It also has a night vision feature and can be set up to work with Amazon’s Alexa Echo.
The Morvelli home security camera can pan and tilt by moving your finger on the phone app. The channel that transmits information is secured by advanced encryption technology, which protects it from hacking. The feed is stored on the cloud and the company boasts that it takes only 3 minutes to set up for immediate use.
Note: it needs a constant 110v power source to operate.
What to Do When Elderly Parents Refuse Help
There may be times when, whether you want to stay home and look after them or have a professional do it, your elderly parent wants no part of this care. They are adamant that they can still live independently and any time you mention any type of caregiving arrangement, they shoot you down.
How can you get them to warm up to the idea? There are a few approaches to try:
- Understanding: Try seeing things from the perspective of your parents. Why would they turn down perfectly good help? Well, for example, maybe they are worried about a lack of privacy or concerned that a professional caregiver might steal from them. If you can envision things in their shoes, then you can ease the very real fears or doubts they may have. That could make them more willing to accept your help or someone else’s.
- Taking a step back: Constantly nagging and pestering won’t get the job done, so it might be best to back off a bit. While it’s okay to do for the short term, don’t fail to bring up the subject again out of fear of irritating your parents. It’s important, and thus has to be addressed and discussed in the future.
- Steamrolling: Some adult children may decide to proceed with their caretaking plan regardless of what their parents think or want. This gets things done, yes, but sometimes at the cost of the parental relationship. It is always best if you can get your parents to cooperate, so this really should be a last ditch tactic that you only use when you have no other choice.
Government Assistance for Caregivers of Elderly Parents
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, you can always look into getting government assistance to make paying for your elderly parent’s care less of a monetary burden. We’ll provide a basic list here:
- Tax credits or tax deductions may be available for ongoing care
- Paid Family Leave (or PFL); unlike FMLA, you do still get paid to care for your parent over four to 12 weeks with PFL, but as of this writing, the PFL benefit is only available in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and California. However, a universal Paid Family Leave is also set to begin in the District of Columbia on July 1, 2020, and the state of Washington passed a leave bill that will start in 202o, as well.
- Long-term care insurance, which could offer benefits to adult children caretakers such as yourself
- A whole life insurance policy could be cashed in, especially if there is a policy in place that is valued at $50,000 or over
- Non-Medicaid programs, which have provisions that vary from state to state. Look for your state’s Division of Aging Services (Department of Human Services) to see what they offer in terms of respite care, telephone checks, physical fitness classes, adult day services, or support groups.
- The Aid and Attendance (A & A) and Housebound benefit may be available for those who were veterans or spouses of veterans. The veteran must qualify for a Veteran’s Administration (VA) pension as these benefits are added to their monthly pensions.
- Veterans may also be eligible for Adult Day Health Care if they need help with activities of daily living, such as help getting dressed or taking medications. This program provides respite for a family caregiver and may also include services from from nurses, therapists, social workers, and others.
- Veterans who need skilled home care may qualify for a home health aide, possibly allowing a family caregiver the chance to work part time. This is part of the VA-directed Home and Community Based Services, which offers additional aid services for older veterans.
- Adult foster care for seniors, which is sometimes offered through Medicaid. Keep in mind, however, that Medicaid does not pay for room and board under their senior foster care program, although SSI/OSS benefits may be available for elderly people who reside in adult foster care.
- The Child Caregiver Exemption, yet another Medicaid option. This is also called the Caretaker Child Exception and the Adult Child Caregiving Exemption and it lets a senior transfer ownership of their home “to their adult child without violating Medicaid’s Look Back Period on asset transfers”, according to PayingForSeniorCare.com.
- Medicaid Personal Care Services, a type of personal care for those with Medicaid. The senior must qualify for the Medicaid program’s Home and Community Based Services by needing help with Activities of Daily Living (for instance, with dressing or feeding) or requiring assistance with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) like money management or grocery shopping.
- Medicaid eligible seniors who need long term services may be able to get some of them covered through Medicaid waivers. Medicaid’s 1915(j) Self-Directed Personal Assistance Services may let a beneficiary “choose who will be involved in providing their care.”
Having an elderly parent is something most of us will face at some point. You may choose to care for them yourself or let the professionals step in. Either way, we hope we’ve given you several options for alleviating stress, funding care, and maintaining your own life, finances, and sanity while you do it.
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