Updated Jun 23, 2022 – Many older adults desire to age in place, grow older in their own homes. And that can certainly work well as long as they are in good health. But that’s not always the case.
Unfortunately, the duties of caring for these senior citizens often falls on their adult children.
Caring for an aging parent or older adults in their own home can be an extremely difficult task but there are steps you can take to make it easier for yourself and safer for them.
Here are some bits of advice that may help you through the process. You may also want to take a look at our Checklist for Care of Elderly Parents for even more information.
How Do You Take Care Of Elderly Parents At Home?
1. Make The House As Safe As Possible
If the house your parent(s) are aging in is not safe, then it’s time to start making some changes. This may mean decluttering and getting rid of things they can trip over, adding handrails in the shower and by the toilet, and installing a stair lift or home elevator if they have trouble going up and down stairs.
…know that caring for elderly parents at home really isn’t possible unless the home is safe and accessible. Slips, falls, and other related injuries are the biggest threats to seniors living at home.thekatynews.com
You should also make sure that any medications they are taking are clearly labeled and stored out of reach of children or pets. If your parent is experiencing memory loss, it may be necessary to lock up certain items like knives and cleaning supplies.
2. Monitoring Devices Will Be Your Best Friends
There are all sorts of gadgets on the market these days that can help keep an eye on an aging parent from afar. Motion sensors can be placed around the house to alert you if your parent hasn’t gotten out of bed or moved around in a while.
And there are now devices that can monitor things like heart rate and respiration, as well as blood pressure and oxygen levels.
If your parent is resistant to the idea of being monitored, try to frame it in terms of keeping them safe and giving you peace of mind. And be sure to do your research to find the best possible option that will fit both your needs and your budget.
3. Get Your Legal Documents In Order
Many adult children wait until it’s too late to take this very first step and a very important step towards caring for their senior parents.
I strongly recommend that you set up a family meeting with your parent(s) about this issue and arrange a meeting with an elder law attorney to begin the process of setting up wills, power of attorney paperwork, etc.
A legal checklist is always a very good thing to go over with aging parents.
4. Consider How Much Time You’ll Need To Take off Work
When our parents need us, our first inclination usually is to rush to their side. If their health issues are severe and/or complicated, you may contemplate quitting your job to assist your parent with around-the-clock elder 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 older parent the care you know they need.
It’s not always financially feasible to quit your job and care for your parent full-time.
Leaving your job and letting your partner (if you have one) 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 (Family and Medical Leave Act) exists. If your company is eligible, this program provides you with a 12 week unpaid “sabbatical”.
Before you quit your job, talk to your employer or Human Resources department to get their recommendations on what options you have.
For instance, perhaps you don’t need to take all 12 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 you are taking the time off, but it’s not as big of a financial loss as it would be if you just quit your job outright.
5. Encourage Your Parents To Stay Active
Of course, one of the best things you can do for your aging parent is to encourage them to stay active and engaged. Regular exercise has been shown to be incredibly beneficial for both physical and mental health, so try to find ways to help your parent stay active.
This could include taking walks together, joining a gym or fitness class, plan a short getaway together, or even just doing some simple exercises at home.
6. Keep the Medical Professionals Involved
Your parents’ medical conditions and health care needs will dictate how much involvement you will need with medical professionals.
With the massive move of Baby Boomers past 65, NIA (National Institute On Aging) said the surge in chronic diseases of the elderly will have profound social and economic effects on the nation.Forbes.com
Don’t refuse medical help for your parent, especially if they have an illness or injury. Instead, the right thing to do is to establish communication with their doctors and to accompany them to all their appointments. Talk to their doctor about things you’ve noticed, such as certain symptoms, behaviors, etc.
Work with the physicians and your parents to follow the care plan as closely as possible.
Consider consulting with a geriatric care manager or social worker as well.
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.
7. Accept Help From Others
If you have siblings, hopefully they will volunteer to help you look after your parents for a few hours, days, or even weeks so that you’re not doing everything yourself. Your neighbors, close friends, and other family members could offer to step in as well.
If there are no volunteers, it’s important to know that you should ask for help. For your mental health, I recommend that you accept help from others. Even a support group can be useful.
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 using a legal document like a contract.
Also, don’t forget that you can take advantage of for pay services such as…
- Online grocery delivery services such as Instacart
- Meal preparation delivery services such as Purple Carrot and Freshley.
- Maid services for house cleaning
- Transportation services by Uber and Lyft
These are wonderful services for older people and their caregivers that can be truly beneficial.
8. 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.
“I think a lot of people have the idea that you know when someone gets old, Medicaid just takes over and they pay to put them in a nursing home and that’s that. That is not the reality,”Amy Goyer – cbs12.com
The truth is, your life will continue after your parents have passed away and if you have given everything to care for them, what will you have left for yourself and/or your family?
- If you postponed caring for your own health – you will be in worse condition.
- If you’ve spent your savings on care for them – what will you be living on as you grow older?
- What will the state of your mental health be once your main focus of caring for your parents is gone?
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?
- What about how to care for yourself when you get older?
These are just a few of the reasons why you must take care of yourself, financially, physically and mentally first and then care for your parents. You should also have a nest egg that you don’t touch, as hard as it may be to resist dipping into it. It’s the best solution for your own peace of mind.
According to a 2021 AARP report, on average caregivers spend 26% of their personal income on caregiving expenses. A third of caregivers dip into their personal savings, like bank accounts, to cover costs, and 12% take out a loan or borrow from family or friends.CBS 12 News in West Palm Beach, Florida
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.
9. Do Not Neglect Your Own Mental and Physical Health
Too often, caregivers put all their energy and labor into caring for an elderly parent. This of course, never ends well.
By neglecting their own health (mental and physical) they end up not only resenting their role as a caregiver and possibly resenting their parent(s) but they end up suffering from emotional and physical ailments.
This situation of inevitable caregiver burnout does no one any good – especially the person they are caring for.
To avoid caregiver burnout, try the following tips:
- Let others step in: Whether it’s a trusted neighbor, a sibling, or even your spouse, when someone who’s equipped for the job asks to take over, step back and let them. You need this time to recoup.
- Take breaks: If you were at work, you wouldn’t be at it all day with no breaks in between. That’s just not healthy. Make sure you take breaks when caring for your senior parent as well.
- Carve out time for yourself: Whether you wake up a half-hour earlier or stay up a little later, make some time that’s just for you each day.
- Take advantage of care services: Respite care isn’t only for seniors. We have a great post on respite care for caregivers, which is exactly what it sounds like. A professional can step in and take care of living activities, meal prep, housekeeping, and the senior’s hygiene so you don’t have to for a little while.
- Be realistic about living arrangements: although many older adults want to grow old in their current home, it’s not always the best place for them. Speak with a geriatric care manager about possible options.
Where To Get Help For My Elderly Parents?
Besides getting the time off work so you can take care of your elderly parents, what other types of help exist 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).
- Meal delivery services which bring either ready made meals or meals to be prepared directly to your parent’s home. Services such as Purple Carrot or Silver Cuisine.
- 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, professional caregivers 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 other reasons?
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
There are a few products we can recommend to help you monitor your elderly loved ones.
Amazon’s Echo Show
Amazon’s Echo Show is an Alexa device with a screen. It does everything that Alexa does and more.
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
When caring for an elderly loved one who lives a good distance away – the use of a video camera or
I like the COOAU Pet Camera because it has night vision capabilities and it is both a camera and a motion sensor which gives it an extra layer of monitoring that may hopefully detect and alert you if your parent were to suffer a fall.
NOTE: But if your parent does have a history of falling or a very strong potential of falling then I would recommend to add a fall detection device like the Walabot Fall Alert System.
The Blurams Home Pro is also a great option, it has many of the same features that the COOAU Pet Camera has so choosing either one of these would be able to help you to monitor your elderly parent.
Like most all the wireless cameras you can monitor the video from these cameras from your phone, receive alerts and both can be used with your Alexa device.
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 refuse to listen to you.
So what can you do when they refuse help? 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.