When Your Parent Can’t Live Alone

back view of elderly woman sitting outdoors and clappingNeeding assistance is an inevitable side effect of aging. Most people will eventually become dependent on others for help with basic tasks.

In many cases, they become dependent on their own family—usually their children. If you are that child, you may be overwhelmed with the problems and questions surrounding your parent’s care.

Can Mom continue to live alone safely? Dad refuses to move to a nursing home. I really can’t take my parents into my home—am I a bad son or daughter?

Grown children struggle with these questions as their parents age. If you are also torn between wanting to keep your parents safe and respecting their needs and wants, this article is for you.

Problem: It isn’t safe for Mom or Dad to live alone.

If you’ve ever come to visit your mom, only to find her home filling up with smoke from a scorched pot while she naps peacefully on the couch, you know how unsafe it is for her to continue living alone.

Normal age-related forgetfulness, as well as early stage dementia, can create countless emergency situations. Arthritis, dizziness, or muscle weakness can result in falls and other accidents. Even just trying to stay on top of their medication regiment can be too difficult for many seniors.

At a certain point, you might start feeling constantly anxious about your parent’s safety and well being when you know they’re home alone. If you live close by, you might check on them several times a day, straining your already packed schedule. And if you live too far to visit often, your anxiety may skyrocket knowing they’re unsafe.

Solution: Emergency Call Button

If your parent can more or less take care of themselves, but you’re concerned about falls, Life Alert® may be a solution. They provide a wearable device with a button that seniors can push if they’ve “fallen and can’t get up.” The 24/7 dispatchers can talk to them through the device and send an emergency medical team if necessary.

Life Alert® also provides services for shower emergencies and home intrusions, and has been used by millions of American seniors. Remember, though, that services like Life Alert® are only as good as the person using them. If you know your parent will not call for help in an emergency—either due to stubbornness or inability—this may not be the best option.

Solution: Companion or Aide

When Mom or Dad has some physical limitations, hiring a companion may be a good idea. The ideal companion would be a kind and compassionate man or woman who respects seniors. They would be responsible for housekeeping, cooking, and shopping. They would also accompany your parent to their doctor appointments if you can’t make it, perhaps waiting discreetly outside while your parent meets with the doctor.

Your parent’s companion can also help with some basic grooming and personal hygiene, but if more intense personal assistance is needed, you may want to bring in a home health aide. You can usually hire a certified aide from a home health care agency. They can help with bathing and toileting, mobility assistance, and other more intense needs. Having a home health aide for a few hours a day, and a companion the rest of the time, can provide a good balance of quality medical care and social stimulation.

When allowing any stranger into your parents home, make sure to vet them thoroughly before hiring them. Ask for references and inquire about their character, ability, and disposition. Don’t be afraid to do some of your own research, by finding previous employers who haven’t been given to you as references.

Solution: Moving Your Parent into Your Home

Many children choose to bring their parents into their own homes, where they can be sure they will be properly cared for. Whether you do the caring yourselves or hire a companion or aide to help, having your parent near you will alleviate a lot of your worries.

Before moving your elderly parent into your home, make sure your spouse is fully on board with the decision. You should also take into account what effect the move will have on your own kids, your jobs, and your finances. Caring for your mom or dad in your own home is the ultimate sacrifice, and you may be thrilled with the opportunity to give back to them.

On the other hand, it can be a real stress, and many people aren’t up to it in the long run. In addition, your parent himself may refuse to participate in the role reversal inherent in moving into their child’s home. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up. You are not a bad daughter or son if you’re doing what’s best for you parent.

Solution: Senior Living Facility

If you have trouble finding reliable home help, or your parent’s needs exceed the help a home health aide can give, consider moving them to a senior living facility. This can be an assisted living community, where residents live semi-independently, or a skilled nursing facility, where the care is at a much higher level.

We’ve discussed the pros and cons of skilled nursing facilities in a previous article. Even taking the downsides of nursing homes into account, in many cases it’s still the best option.

But what happens if your parent refuses to move into a facility? We’ll talk about that in our next post.

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