by Jan Simpson
Recently I got a call from a friend in California. He told me that he and his sisters were worried about their 88- and 86-year-old parents who live on the East Coast. Concerned about their ability to remain safely in their own home, this circumstance is a familiar one: his parents are approaching a tipping point where a housing change is necessary. How each family makes this decision is unique, but it’s useful to evaluate alternatives before a crisis forces a hasty change.
What are those housing alternatives? Some adult children have their ill or widowed parents move in with them. Today, more than 3.6 million parents live with their adult children, according to David Horgan and Shira Block, authors of When Your Parent Moves In: Every Adult Child’s Guide to Living with an Aging Parent. While the book gives strategies for creating a harmonious living arrangement, it also cautions the reader about jumping into this arrangement without first considering the long-term implications. They offer the reader a “Moving In Quiz,” a sample of which is below.
Guilt: Using a scale of 1-Never, 2-Almost Never, 3-Sometimes, 4-Almost Always, and 5-Always, how often do the following apply?
___ Why am I the only one who steps up to the plate? If I don’t take care of Mom, no one will.
___ Dad refuses to go into an assisted-living facility or even let us send a home health aide to see him. What choice do I have?
___ My spouse doesn’t say it, but I know he/she expects me to take care of his/her mother. I don’t want to upset anyone, so I’ll just go along and try to make the best of it.
___ I can’t abandon my parent. I couldn’t live with myself if I did.
___ I know my mother thinks I don’t care about her. That’s not true, but she is always trying to make me feel bad.
According to the authors, if you score an average of three or higher, you may be walking into “a minefield of guilt leading to resentment, frustration, and the potential breakdown of your own well-being.”
While housing elderly parents may be the right choice for some, assisted living facilities, elderly apartments, and continuous care communities are other housing choices to seriously consider. Who can you contact to get a quick list of available options and guidance? Physicians, friends, social workers, and nurses are all helpful resources, as is www.eldercare.gov. Here are three other sources of free information:
- Area Council on Aging—In addition to offering activities for seniors, local Councils on Aging have a trove of information about local home care services, elder law attorneys, local assisted living, and skilled nursing homes (see www.ncoa.org). Arrange to speak or meet with the director and explain your parents’ situation. They will help you develop a short list of options and provide insight into how best to evaluate choices.
- Social Worker affiliated with a local hospital or the Visiting Nurse Association—If your parent has had a recent hospital stay, schedule a telephone or face-to-face appointment with the hospital’s social worker. Ask about local facilities and other services that may be of help. A quick call to a social worker affiliated with the local Visiting Nurse Association (www.vnaa.org) may also be useful.
- A Place for Mom—A social worker who advises families that are dispersed geographically recommended this organization, a free service for families who need to evaluate a range of housing choices. They do not charge the callers, but rather are compensated by the facility where your parent may move (see www.aplaceformom.com). Skeptical at first, I contacted them recently about a complex family situation that included a loved one with dementia, and I was surprised to find how helpful and how quickly they were able to identify potential facilities that the family could evaluate. (A reminder, I do not have any financial arrangement with this service; they are simply another resource easily accessible.)
In the end, my friend and his sisters evaluated their options and decided, collaboratively with their parents, to move them into an assisted living facility.
Have your parents or older loved ones had to make a housing change? If so, share your thoughts about how best to make that transition.
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