An ever increasing number of baby boomers are facing the fact that they will have to be active participants in their elderly parents care, and when that time arrives, it can put a strain on their lives and relationships.
Our parents are living longer than ever and baby boomers who are looking forward to more leisure time are finding the opposite is true.
Five months after the night that I walked into the ICU to see my parents. (See Part 1 - Aging Parents) I returned home to my family and brought my dad with me. He now lives in a lovely assisted living facility, 10 minutes away from us.
My mom's condition deteriorated and she passed away a month after I arrived. She was in agony and did not want to go on. It was extremely hard to see her suffering so much, but I am glad that at least I had a chance to spend time with her in the end.
My dad had surgery to fuse his broken neck. The surgery was a success but it left him in a great deal of pain, very disoriented and unable to swallow properly for many months.
As my mom's condition dwindled, my dad was so confused and in so much agony, he could hardly comprehend what was happening to the woman he had been married to since the age of 20.
I will not get into the details of my parents' ordeal or what I went through, but I do want to share with you what I learned (and am still learning) from my experience:
1) Make a plan. What happens when your parents can no longer take care for themselves. Do they have the means to go to some type of nursing facility or bring live-in help to their home? Can you or one of your siblings bring them into your home?
2) Be involved in your parents' care. Whether your parents are in a nursing home, assisted living, hospital or have at home care, you are not off the hook. There is a lot of miscare of the elderly for all sorts of reasons and it's not always a question of misconduct. Neglect can happen even at the most expensive and prestigious facilities so you must be involved. Ask questions and if something does not look right, speak up. No one cares about your parents like you do. I would like to note, that while you should not be shy about demanding good care for your parent, be careful how you speak to caregivers. Give them the same respect you want them to give your parents.
3) Care giving is both mentally and physically exhausting, let family and friends help.
While it can put a strain on your relationships, it can also strengthen
them when everyone pitches in to help each other for a common cause.
4) Do your parents have a Long Term Care Insurance Policy? Read it over carefully to make sure you understand the coverage and elimination period. Insurers love to receive those premiums but many will do all they can to avoid paying out the benefits.
5) The following legal documents are essential for every adult and especially for seniors:
6) Respect your elderly parents. It gets complicated when roles change and our parents need us. It is important to let them feel independent. Although you might be making the decisions for them, involve them and give them choices to decide between. Ask their advice about situations in your life. Help them feel they are still needed.
I would like to conclude on a positive note: After months of physical therapy and lots of tender loving care, my dad regained all his capacities. Except for the use a walker, he is completely independent and keeps busy both mentally and physically. He swims, plays cards, socializes, surfs the internet, enjoys listening to music, and most importantly, has a positive outlook.