I never thought I would have to be a parent to my dad. It is difficult to place when it even started. When I look back, I remember talking to my dad and thinking, “Is he just confused?” and “Didn’t I just answer that question?” I was sure he was just tired or that he just woke from a nap. It happens to all of us, right? I started seeing signs around the house, like food left out, an overabundance of subscription magazines and the house not kept up like it used to be. When I questioned my dad, I received an array of viable excuses. As the adult child, I wanted to believe these excuses. It was difficult to face the fact my dad was getting older. Not only because of the threat to his autotomy, but also because I was raising my own family and working full-time. The thought of having to deal with these circumstances felt like too much to consider.
Eventually, the signs were too obvious to ignore. Being an only child, I did not have siblings with whom I could have these important conversations. Though it was a yearlong process, I needed to be sure he could be in a safe place with the proper care to live out his golden years. I am sharing my story because I learned coping mechanisms and gained knowledge that I wish was shared with me. As a Registered Nurse, I have seen many adult children enter a crisis situation when they need immediate assistance in caring for their parents.
Here is my advice as an adult child: Be proactive!
- Do not ignore the signs and assume everything is a normal part of aging. Collaborate with your parents’ physician early on. Encourage your parents to sign HIPAA release papers; complete a durable power of attorney. Have those important discussions before they cannot make decisions for themselves.
- Know and understand your parents’ finances. This can be very difficult for the parent. However, encouraging your parents to be open and honest will allow them to take charge of their care. Most of us believe that Medicare will take care of us; however, Medicare does not pay for assisted living or memory care. Know your options!
- Tour assisted and independent living facilities with your parents. Even though your goal is to keep them in their home as long as possible, you never know when they may need the next level of care. Letting your parents learn about additional options gives them control of their future. If possible, get on a waiting list!
- If your parent owns his or her home, make sure that is well maintained and decluttered. It can be challenging to put their home on the market. It took us six months before we could list my dad’s house due to years of neglect and accumulation.
- Knowledge is power. Learn everything you can about available resources in your area. You can’t do everything, even though you may want to.
- Make sure you take care of yourself. Ask for help and look into respite care options. That way, your parent can see what it’s like to live in a care community, and you can get a much-needed break.
- Most importantly, let your parents know how much you love them. Reassure them that you have their best interests at heart. Life is short; live and cherish every moment.
By Leah Veschio, RN, MSN
Leah Veschio, RN, MSN, is the director of community outreach at The Peaks Senior Living Community.