It can happen in an instant. One day, your father lives alone, independent and generally healthy despite his advanced age. The next day he’s in bed with something broken, dependent on his adult children and forced to move to a long-term care facility because you don’t have time to look for alternatives. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen this happen hundreds of times.
Dad can’t avoid getting old, at least not if he’s lucky. But it is not inevitable that he will have to give up his accommodation, whether it is a real house or an apartment in a building for the elderly. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive rather than reactive and find a professional who can help you and your dad (or mom) figure out how to stay home as long as possible, even in case of injury or illness. The benefits of staying at home can be both economic and psychological.
First of all, it’s almost always much cheaper than a nurse, which can cost up to $100,000 a year for a shared room and sometimes double or even triple that for a private room, depending on where you live. Before Medicaid takes effect, you will need to spend almost all of your savings and provide years of detailed financial statements. assisted living is cheaperbut still expensive and not fully covered by Medicaid.
Seek help sooner rather than later
That’s why one of my top recommendations to anyone wondering about elder care is: don’t go it alone. Another: Start exploring options before your parents need them. You want to act from a position of strength and health.
Fortunately, there are people who do this kind of work. Called geriatric care managers (GCM), life managers or even aging life care coordinators, these are usually social workers, occupational therapists or nurses who specialize in helping older people understand what they need and how to get it – a much like a professional parent without the built-in family dynamic. I would say anyone over 65, and certainly 75, should have this discussion with a pro. It is not about dependence but about independence.
The job of a GCM is to discover what is important to a client, identify boundaries (real and imagined), locate resources, and put a plan in place. Maybe a bar in the tub before the balance gets worse, or move some dry goods to lower kitchen cabinets before the arthritis gets too bad. They can help you with everything from talking to home health aides or personal care workers long before they’re needed, meaning you can be picky and therefore more likely to find a good one. candidate, to find a local group with similar interests, which reduces the anxiety that can come from isolation.
GCMs relieve both parents and adult children and let the affected person decide what their life will be like in the future. I’ve asked a lot of 80-year-olds what they would have done differently in their lifetime, and a surprising number of them say they would have taken more risks. So why not now? Why not let them live as full a life as possible and thrive rather than just survive?
Where to find help
The US Administration on Aging has a repertoire to help you and your parent get started with a nursing corner filled with easy to understand information and links to resources. It’s a good place to start if you’re already feeling overwhelmed or don’t have the money to hire someone. A local health department or primary care physician might also be able to point you in the right direction. Religious and community organizations can also sometimes help. Never be embarrassed to ask.
Still, the best case scenario is a certified GCM. You want someone you can build a relationship with over time – rather than destroy it by reversing parent-child roles. It’s important to have someone who will tell mom or dad the truth and understand the trajectory of aging. A GCM isn’t cheap – usually between $50 and $150 an hour – but, believe me, it’s money well spent, even without considering peace of mind.
A good GCM will give you sound advice and avoid problems that you may not even see coming or happening. They can even help clients figure out where to volunteer — reading to school children or bottle-feeding shelter kittens? – as well as making sure they stay in touch with their own siblings. (Working with a GCM is, by the way, an expense that insurance usually doesn’t cover, but be sure to double-check anyway.)
Cost aside, I can’t overstate how important it can help families maintain happy bonds. I know of an elderly mother who hired a GCM because she saw the stress that arranging her care was causing her daughter. Now? Daughter breathes easy, and mom hosts ‘garage sales’ for grandkids and other parents, shares stories about items and enjoys her final years because she got the help she needed to live them as you please.
CEO and Founder, Lifespark
After a career spanning more than 25 years that began as a critical care nurse and moved into healthcare management and senior services, Joel Theisen is committed to helping end the roller coaster of crisis that are a reality for too many older people. In 2004, he founded spark of lifea Minnesota-based holistic seniors services organization that uses a comprehensive, proactive, long-term approach to connecting seniors to the right services, at the right time, so they can age beautifully.