In some societies, taking care of your elderly parents is a social obligation from which there is no escape. That is not a problem if you have been preparing all your life and have the necessary background and resources to handle it.
But this is not the case for everyone who finds themselves in the position of responsibility for their aging parents. They never expected to take on this responsibility. And they have no idea how to proceed or what they should even be considering.
No checklist can fully prepare you for the responsibility of taking care of another human being for which you were not expecting. But if you start with these 5 considerations, you will be well on your way to making the right decision:
1. Is Your Home Ready?
It is natural to ask your self if you are emotionally prepared for what lies in store. But one should probably begin with the more practical matter of your home. Elderly people often have special needs. And your home may not be ready to meet those needs without additional preparation.
It may not be safe or comfortable for your elderly parent to get in and out of chairs by themselves. With this in mind, you are going to need to have the right kind of furniture, such as a lift chair, to accommodate them.
If they are using a walker or wheelchair for mobility, you need to be sure your doorways are wide enough to accommodate them. A simple accommodation might be to add a few electrical outlets higher up on the wall so that your parents can reach them more easily.
All other considerations aside, you cannot care for someone in your home if your home isn't ready.
2. Can You Handle the Health Needs?
You might be just fine if the biggest health need your parent has is a little help getting in and out of chairs. But needs can run much deeper than that. And you have to be realistic about what you can manage.
A senior's health needs may include the following:
- Wound care
As much as your parents might want to remain in a private house, their needs might require a care facility. You might also have to consider in-home nursing. Before you can take in aging parents, you have to carefully assess their health needs to be sure you can meet them.
Taking care of a person is an expensive proposition. If you are already taking care of three kids and are at the limits of what your income can handle, you can't afford to take on someone else without major alterations to your lifestyle.
There are costs to expect when caring for aging parents. Not everyone will face all the associated expenses. But one has to be prepared for what potentially lies ahead. Good care requires good preparation. And finances are a part of that preparation.
4. Emergency Response
Do you know what heart attack or stroke symptoms look like? If you see those symptoms manifest, do you know what to do next? If you are not present, is there some emergency alert system in place for them to easily activate?
Apple Watch and iPhone are two devices that have emergency alert systems built in at the core level. There are other hardware and software systems that can also serve in this capacity. It is important that you have some system in place, just in case.
5. Part of the Family
When dealing with practical needs, it is easy to forget about emotional needs. Your aging parents don't just need a place to stay. They need a place to belong. They don't want to feel like guests in a hotel. They want to be a part of the family.
They are your family. They have their own friends and hopes and expectations. They don't want to lose their independence or personhood. And they want to belong, fit in, and be useful.
You will be a blessing to your parents in their later years if you make sure your home is ready, if you can handle their health needs, if your finances are prepared, if there are contingencies for emergencies, and if you make them an integral part of the family.