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With nearly one in five citizens in the United States being 65 or older (https://www.statista.com/statistics/457822/share-of-old-age-population-in-the-total-us-population/), senior care is a topic of concern for many Americans. Family members, especially adult children, are often the primary caregivers for older adults. Those who are caring for elderly parents for the first time naturally have many questions. However, the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming; keep reading to learn more about how to care for older family members.
First things first: what level of care does your parent need? Would they be fine with minimal assistance in their own home, or do they require closer supervision? Answering these questions often requires the help of a doctor or other professional. You can get into contact with a local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) (https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/About/Aging_Network/AAA.aspx) to find assistance near you in answering these questions.
One of the most common ways to determine the level of assistance your parent needs is to determine if they need help with activities of daily living, or ADLs. ADLs are simply tasks that are necessary for leading an independent lifestyle. They include activities such as feeding, toileting, and dressing.
Once you’ve determined how much assistance your loved ones need, you need to determine who will be their primary caregivers. Oftentimes, family members step into these roles, but that isn’t always the best option. You need to ask yourself if you can realistically care for your aging loved ones. Do you have the time, money, and other resources to ensure that they are safe and well cared for in their own home? If not, consider whether they should move in with you or another family member, or–even if no one wants to think about it–whether a nursing home or assisted living facility is the best option (include link to nursing home blog post once published).
Caring for aging loved ones can oftentimes be expensive. Fortunately, there are government assistance programs that can lessen this financial burden, such as the following.
If your loved one is a veteran (or spouse of a veteran), you may qualify for financial assistance from the government. These options include the Aid and Attendance pension benefit (https://www.veteranaid.org/about.php) and Veteran Home and Community-Based Services (https://www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/pages/Veteran-Directed_Care.asp). You can contact a Veteran Affairs facility near you (https://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp) to discuss your loved one’s eligibility for these programs.
Unfortunately, Medicare typically doesn’t offer extensive help for long-term caregivers. Instead, it mostly helps cover short-term caregiving costs (https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/paying-care), such as short-term stays at nursing homes or some instances of hospice care. Some states, though, do offer a Medicare program known as PACE (http://www.pace4you.org/), short for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. For qualified individuals, this program can help offset costs associated with long-term care for elderly people, including those with Alzheimer’s disease.
For qualifying individuals, Medicaid can help cover long-term care costs (https://www.medicaid.gov/) or other medical care expenses.
Under a 2017 expansion of the Child Tax Credit (https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2017/tax-tips-family-caregivers.html), you may be able to claim up to $500 for caring for an elderly parent.
[h3]How can I help my elderly parent stay at home?
If your parent’s medical provider deems it safe, you may be able to help your elderly loved one stay at home rather than have them move to a senior care facility. Ways you can make living at home easier for a senior parent include:
One often-overlooked aspect of caring for an aging loved one is the stress. No matter how much you love your elderly parent, it can be stressful to assume the role of their full-time caregiver. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people in these situations to develop what’s known as caregiver burnout. As the name implies, caregiver burnout is when a caregiver becomes overwhelmed by the mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that comes from caregiving responsibilities. Along with this exhaustion comes apathy and even resentment towards the person you are caring for. That’s why it’s important to address your own emotional and mental health needs in addition to your parent’s needs.
The following are a few ways you can lessen caregiver stress and burnout:
Signs of caregiver stress or burnout include:
There may come a time when you cannot provide the care your elderly parent needs. In such cases, you need to discuss with your parent’s doctor what options are available to help your loved one maintain a high quality of life. These options could include:
It’s not easy watching a loved one face the challenges that come with aging. Caring for elderly parents comes with a unique set of challenges, but there are fortunately many different options when it comes to ensuring your loved ones get the care they need.