Looking after your elderly mom can be a complicated and stressful job. Whether you live close by or far from your mother, certain questions and challenges remain:
- What level of care does my mother need?
- Can she remain at home?
- Should my mother seek assisted living or go into a nursing home?
While these seem like straight forward questions, caring for elderly parents at home can be a time consuming and difficult endeavor. The first step is to decide what kind of care your beloved mother needs. Usually, this will depend on her physical and mental state, and finances will play a big role, too.
As your mom gets older or has a medical emergency, she may require assistance to help her live as independently as possible. While moving her to a nursing home or assisted living facility are two options, more and more elderly adults are looking for ways to continue living at home. The stress of caring for elderly parents is a reality, but there are plenty of options out there so that you can continue caring for aging parents at home. In this article, we will discuss:
- Fast Facts
- Tips for Caring for Elderly Parents at Home
- Start Planning for Help – What Are the Options?
- How to Know What It’s Time for Assisted Living
- How About a Nursing Home?
- In-Home Caregivers – the Benefits
- How to Find the Best In-Home Caregiver
Did you know that:
- While men may help, female caregivers spend as much as 50% more time caring for the elderly[I]
- Approximately 66% of caregivers are women[II]
- On average, female caregivers are 49-years-old and they look after their 60-year old mother who lives alone[II]
So, if you have found yourself in the role of caregiver to your mother, know that you are not alone. But, the first decision you need to make, is whether your elderly mom wants to remain at home or not. Chances are, she does. More seniors prefer to age comfortably in familiar surroundings and that means some adjustments will need to be made.
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Tips for Caring for Elderly Mom at Home
Sometimes, in a panic, children rush to place their parents in a care home and, in turn, their parents worry about their future. That’s why more health care professionals are suggesting home health care for elderly parents.
Firstly, if your parent hasn’t suffered a medical emergency, you need to know when it is time for extra help. Tell-tale signs include:
- Frequent falls
- Frequent illnesses
- Failing to pay bills
- Losing weight
- Not taking medication correctly
- Failing memory
- Problems with hygiene and grooming
- Problems getting up and down from a seating position and moving around the house
- Lack of interest in their usual activities
The good news is that you can do a few things to help mom feel safe and comfortable at home while you, and hopefully the rest of the family, decide what type of care will be best for her. You can:
- Purchase pill boxes that have set alarms to remind your elderly mom when to take her medication
- Regularly review medication with her pharmacist and ask for advice on things like pills vs. liquid medicine
- Sign up for a service that will call your mom every day to remind her to take her medicine
- Help your parent with getting dressed
- Consider the services of an occupational therapist who will help with physical aides and exercises
- Buy assistive clothing, such as Velcro slippers and wide pop socks
- If your parent is good with technology, teach her to shop online and how to contact you on Skype
- Ask family, friends, and neighbors to help out with shopping and general companionship
- Some friends may be willing to cook a meal for your elderly mom and bring it over
Once you have everyone on board with caring for aging parents at home, you can decide on the best option for your mother.
Start Planning for Help – What Are the Options?
Before you even begin to consider your options, it is important to call a family meeting with your siblings, children, spouse, and, of course, your parents, along with anyone else who can offer their views and help decide what is best for your mom[IV].
Obviously, finances are going to play an important role in your mother’s long-term care and an honest discussion about resources needs to be part of your family meeting. If this is likely to be a difficult discussion, you may want to consider the services of an outside facilitator, such as a religious leader, social worker, or caregiver agency.
The next consideration is the level of care your mother needs. As she gets older, her care needs are going to change and often, they will become more challenging. Even if you agree on caring for elderly parents at home now, you also need to establish how to know when it’s time for assisted living or a nursing home.
A few things to consider include:
- Does your elderly mom require assistance during the day and who can provide this?
- Is your mom’s memory starting to fail?
- Which daily activities can she do on her own, such as toileting, bathing, and meal preparation?
- How comfortable are you providing personal care such as grooming and bathing?
- What is the condition of your own health, your job, physical abilities, and any other demands?
- What services are already available to your elderly mom, such as in-home caregivers and transportation?
Caring for elderly parent’s stress is a reality for everyone involved. Moving your elderly mom into your own home is certainly an option, but there are other living arrangements you and your family might like to consider. The kind of care you choose will depend on a few main factors:
- Your mother’s care needs
- The location of the housing in proximity to family members
In this article, we are going to discuss three main types of care for elderly parents:
- Assisted living
- Nursing home
- In-home caregivers
How to Know When It’s Time for Assisted Living
There is no doubt that realizing your elderly mother needs senior care is a difficult moment. She kept you safe and secure when you needed it, and now it may be time for you to return that care. Unfortunately, it is not always possible for us to care for our parents in our own homes. So, we need to look at how to know when it’s time for assisted living. Ideally, you should involve your mother in the search for a facility or caregiver.
Below, we outline how to find the right assisted living solution for your mother.
- Involve Your Mother
The more you include your mother in the search for the best care for her, the better. Discuss her desires and what she would prefer, and try to give her several options.
- Figure Out Your Finances
Money plays a significant role in your search. What can your family afford monthly? Does your elderly mom have any policies or savings that could help toward her care?
- Talk to a Senior Living Advisor
Once you have done a little research, contact an advisor who can help with how to know when it’s time for assisted living. Advisors have lists of senior’s communities and there is sure to be one the meets your mom’s preferences and requirements, as well as those that you can comfortably afford. You can then start the process of elimination.
- Visit Assisted Living Facilities
No matter how much time you and your elderly mom spend looking at websites and brochures, you need to pay a visit to your preferred facilities. Try to arrange visits to at least three facilities on your short list. It’s a good idea to tour during an activity or meal time to get a good sense of the community and their atmosphere. Once you’ve conducted the tours, you can narrow your search down even further to you and your mom’s two or three favorite facilities.
- Make a Decision
You will need to ensure, if you can, that everybody in the family is pleased with the final decision. Discuss the pros and cons with your mom, too, to find the right option.
- Time to Move
If you and your family decide that an assisted living facility is best for mom, you can begin making the move. Any delays could potentially lead to otherwise avoidable medical complications and accidents, so it is a good idea to make the move as quick and easy as possible.
After touring assisted living facilities, you may decide that it’s not the right option for your mother. You may need to ask yourself, “when is it time to put a loved one in a nursing home?”
How About a Nursing Home?
Caring for elderly parents at home can be stressful and often just not possible. While the idea of moving mom to a nursing home is an agonizing one, it may be the right option if mom has fractured her hip, suffered a stroke, or is failing in her overall health and requires round-the-clock care that you cannot provide in her home.
Again, finances will play a significant role in your decision. Some families are able to pool their finances to cover the costs of a nursing home and other seniors may be entitled to state support. You will also need to assess your mom’s care requirements. Most people decide to place their parents in a care home[VI] when:
- Their parents require 24-hour supervision
- Caring for mom is affecting their own health
- It has gotten difficult to manage dementia behaviors, including wondering off or being aggressive
- Mom has become socially isolated and is sinking into a depression, failing to eat
- Mom and dad still live together, but mom’s poor health is affecting dad’s own health
- Confusion with medications
The above points should help you decide when it is time to put a loved one in a nursing home. Your first step is using local resources, such as GPs??, religious leaders, and community advisors, to find out the best nursing homes in your preferred area. As with assisted living, you should discuss mom’s preferences and expectations with her and try to include her in the decision process.
However, you may find that mom doesn’t want to leave the comfort of her own home, which is when you might have to consider home health care for elderly parents.
In-Home Caregivers – The Benefits
Did you know that[VII]:
- In-home caregivers spend around 13 days a month on tasks like housekeeping, medication, transportation, and laundry.
- Caregivers spend 6 days a month dressing, grooming, and helping with toileting.
This can lead to copious caring for elderly parents stress. We know that watching your mother age can be incredibly upsetting. As our aging parents slow down, so their needs increase, leaving you and your family with the tough decisions to be made.
If you and your mom are not keen on assisted living facilities or nursing homes and would prefer caring for aging parents at home, there are several benefits to be had, such as:
- Continuity – by not moving, mom will have a sense of continuity which is a great source of comfort. Learning her new environment in a facility can be extremely overwhelming.
- Dignity – mom can stay at home and age gracefully with a degree of dignity.
- Family – having your elderly parent remain in her home can be comforting for you and the rest of the family. None of you will have to rely heavily on memories and mom can continue to enjoy the comforts of her own house.
- Tranquility – as seniors get older, they tend to value quiet and peace over any other comforts. Hearing the noises in a nursing home and the beeps of medical equipment can be annoying and a cause for stress. At home, mom can enjoy her own environment that she created herself.
These are just four benefits of caring for elderly parents at home. Luckily, you and your family don’t have to do it all alone. Hiring a professional in-home caregiver can ease the stress of looking after mom and give you great peace of mind that mom’s healthcare needs are properly taken care of.
How to Find the Best In-Home Caregiver
Perhaps it’s been a tough task getting mom to agree to help. But, home health care for elderly parents can be a great source of comfort and relief. Caregivers can come in a couple of days a week to help your mom with meal preparation, housekeeping, grocery shopping, transportation, and general companionship. For seniors who are suffering from illness or disease, in-home caregivers will come in daily to administer medication and follow a detailed care plan to ensure your mom is well looked after.
So, how do you go about finding a kind, qualified, experienced, trustworthy, and diligent in-home caregiver who your mom will feel comfortable with in her own home?
Finding a Caregiver
Worrying about your mom’s health and safety as she ages can become all -consuming, rendering it tough to focus on other important things in life. Studies have found that almost 80 percent of adults[VIII] who require long-term care prefer to live at home and not be institutionalized. While many children prefer to use unpaid caregiver help (as in friends, family, and neighbors), more than a third[IX] of people surveyed prefer to use qualified in-home caregivers. In fact, the number of people using paid home health care for elderly parents is set to double from 13 million to 27 million by 2050 due to the aging of our baby boomers[X].
This brings us to the question: what type of in-home care is available? There are typically two kinds: in-home care services and home health care services. If your mother needs regular help with her health care needs, skilled nursing agencies and home health agencies are the best options for your situation. These agencies provide a broad range of medical services, including:
- Physical therapy
- Assistance with medication
- Medical social services where they coordinate care amongst health care providers
- Nursing services
Seniors who have private insurance policies are able to cover some of the home health care services, but there are a few restrictions. For example, insurance may cover limited home health care for your house-bound mother if she requires intermittent therapy or skilled nursing, as prescribed by her doctor. However, most families do have to pay out of pocket for these services, which is why it is so important to have that initial discussion about finances.
If you have found that your mother increasingly needs help with her personal care and day-to-day activities, like meal preparation, bathing, and household chores, or she just needs a companion to talk to each day, in-home caregivers are a great option. Qualified and experienced in-home caregivers can help with your mother’s everyday activities, making caring for elderly parents at home a highly viable option.
The costs for in-home caregivers and their services can vary. Typically, you can hire a caregiver from a reputable agency who will take care of everything from background checks, paperwork, payroll, and substitutions when the regular caregiver can’t make it into work to taxes and more. However, there is the option of hiring a private individual, but you will have to pay out of pocket and go through the process of interviewing, doing background and reference checks, and worrying about a backup plan when the caregiver doesn’t show up for work. Typically, medical insurance does not cover the cost of in-home caregivers, or it may cover a small amount of the costs. Remember to find out if your mother is eligible for any government programs such as meal programs, transportation services, and any other services that could help ease the financial responsibilities.
Agency, Individual, or Both?
If you have decided that caring for aging parents at home is the best option for your beloved mother, you can then decide whether to hire someone directly or go through a home health care agency. As with the previous two options, you will need to do a little research. Get recommendations from friends, neighbors, colleges and local institutions to help you find a quality caregiver agency. An agency will provide you with a caregiver’s references which you are always encouraged to check. They will also perform an initial assessment of your mom and her home and, along with you, devise a thorough care plan for her needs. They will monitor the care plan and adjust it as your mom’s needs change.
Let’s look at a few pros and cons of using an agency vs. hiring a private caregiver.
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Private In-Home Caregiver
- Usually slightly less costly than hiring a home health care agency
- A personal caregiver and your mom might develop a solid one-on-one relationship, but this can also happen through an agency
- You are personally responsible for choosing the person who you think will provide the best possible care for your mother
- You can develop your mother’s care plan together and keep adjusting as needed
- Screening, interviewing, hiring, firing, taxes, salary, and background checks will all have to be handled by you which can be time-consuming and confusing
- If the in-home caregiver is sick, you are the substitute as there may not be anyone else available
- A private in-home caregiver may not be covered by medical policies or insurance
- You will need to have the time available to supervise, guide, and train the caregiver
The Pros and Cons of Using a Home Health Care Agency
- If the in-home caregiver is ill, the agency will send a suitable and well-informed substitute
- A caregiver via an agency may be covered, even in part, by private insurance or medical insurance
- Hiring and firing, background checks, screening, taxes, references, training, and pay are all handled by the home health care agency
- Agencies provide their caregivers with a broad range of skills and ongoing training to meet their elderly client’s varying needs, such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, skilled nursing care, cooking skills, driving skills
- Sometimes, and depending on your situation, several caregivers may be used which can be distressing and confusing for your mother. However, you can request the same caregiver
- In-home caregiving services may not always be offered in rural areas
- It can be a little more costly to go through an agency, but you are paying the agency to take care of everything while you look after your relationship with your mother
- There may be the less individual choice in caregivers, so it is worth asking your chosen home health care agency what their process is for matching clients with caregivers.
Getting Ready to Hire an In-Home Caregiver
As with all the options mentioned in this article, the best place to start is by assessing both you and your mother’s caregiving needs. Start by evaluating the following areas:
- Healthcare – physicians appointments, health monitoring, management of medicine, any therapy requirements
- Personal care – toileting, dressing, meal preparation, bathing
- Help with transportation – make sure the in-home caregiver has a valid driver’s license and, if you need to, check their driving record, provided your mother requires someone to drive her to places
- Household care – shopping for groceries, cooking, laundry, general cleaning
- Emotional care – conversation, activities, companionship, encouragement to be social
When it comes to caring for elderly parents at home, it is always important to evaluate your mother’s preferences and values. She might be a lot more comfortable with an in-home caregiver who shares her language or cultural background. In fact, cultural capacity like experience working with Holocaust survivors or prior training in the LGBT community may be important to your mom. That being said, she may also prefer a female over a male caregiver, especially if she needs help with hygiene and personal care. It is important to find all these factors out when caring for aging parents at home.
Doing a Background Check
Of course, it is absolutely your prerogative to be picky about the person you choose to care for you ailing and aging mother. In fact, you should be. If you decide to use a home health care agency, make sure you ask them how they conduct background checks on their staff. If for some reason, you are uncomfortable with their procedures for screening staff, you may want to choose a different agency.
There are copious amounts of stories out there about elders being abused by their caregivers[XI] and taking advantage of the home and family. The abuse may be financial, emotional, or even physical. To avoid becoming a victim, go ahead and conduct your own background check for complete peace of mind. Be sure to check:
- Past job performance
- Assurance that the caregiver is qualified and experienced to do the job that your mother needs to be done
- Assurance that the information both the agency and in-home caregiver provide is accurate
Planning and Monitoring the Care
When you pay someone for home health care for elderly parents, you need to be sure that they will carry out the tasks they have been hired to do. This is the point at which you should draw up a detailed list of responsibilities and compare it with the caregiver’s suggested care plan. Make sure you consider you and your mother’s overall goals for care, such as peace of mind, safety, compliance with certain health care tasks, and social support. It is a good idea to regularly review and adjust the plan with the in-home caregiver as your mother’s needs change.
Some families like to use technology to monitor their loved one’s care when they cannot be around. For instance, a security camera system will allow you to monitor activities in your mother’s home, via computer or phone, when you are not there. We must mention that not many people use cameras to check up on their loved one’s care activities, and there are various ethical issues about trust and privacy that you should discuss with the agency and caregiver before you install such a system.
Even if you are facing a crisis with your mom, there is the option of temporarily hiring a home health care agency which will give you enough time to consider all your options and ask all the necessary questions so that you can knowledgeably and confidently decide who you can entrust your mother’s care with.
Some families find it a major challenge to accept help from an in-home caregiver. It can be uncomfortable having a new person in your mother’s home and intimately involved in her life. It’s a huge adjustment. However, an experienced, dedicated, and skilled caregiver can make a huge difference to everyone in the family’s well-being and can help delay having to place mom in a facility.
Caring for elderly parents at home is getting easier thanks to professional in-home caregivers and reputable agencies who will take the caring for elderly parents stress off your shoulders while ensuring all your mother’s needs are met. Remember, include mom in all care discussions while you still can, and make sure there is open communication in the family. Keeping a close eye on your aging mother and understanding her health care needs will help you make the best decision for her.