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3 Questions to Ask When Looking for Care for an Aging Parent 

posted: 08/11/16
by: Katie Morton
elderly care
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special moment between a senior woman and her loving adult daughter standing close together outdoors with sun flare
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Seeing our once healthy, vibrant parents cope with the challenges of aging is never easy. As the years pass, your mom and dad may no longer be able to care for themselves independently in a safe manner.

If you are considering caregiver resources to assist your aging parents, you may not know where to start. These decisions can be topics of great strife among parents, siblings, and other family members, so knowing the right questions to ask can make this challenging time more productive and successful for the entire family.

1. Is a family member caregiver the right choice?

As parents age and their health declines, close family members may want to provide home assistance and nursing care. Sometimes close family members are the best individuals for this job, but sometimes they aren't. It depends on the unique needs of your parent, the level of care they need, and the family member's ability and willingness to provide that care.

Here are questions to discuss when deciding whether a family caregiver is the right choice:

  • What is the parent's level of independence (or lack thereof)?
  • Does the parent have special medical needs?
  • Does the parent have cognitive impairment?
  • Does the parent require complicated medical procedures, such as routine injections or IV medication?
  • Does the proposed caregiver have the necessary time to provide full-time care?
  • Does the proposed caregiver have the necessary training to provide specialized nursing or medical care?
  • What are the financial implications of using a family member versus paid care?

While the right family member can be a wonderful caregiver, it pays to be honest with all members of the family about exactly what this job will entail. Being a primary caregiver has been linked to high rates of depression, stress, and anxiety, so going into the job knowing the stakes is important.

2. Can Mom or Dad live quasi-independently at home with some outside help?

Sometimes an aging parent has a strong desire to remain in their home. This situation is feasible for some, as long as outside help comes in to provide assistance and care. If you decide to bring an outside caregiver into your parents' home, what will be the scope of that person's responsibility?

A professional in-home caregiver can provide care for an aging parent when the responsibilities or time commitments exceed what a close family member can provide. When you're interviewing caregivers, you'll want to clearly delineate their responsibilities, so there's no confusion.

Here are some questions to ask potential outside caregivers:

  • Is the caregiver providing assistance with daily basic needs, or are they expected to be just a social contact?
  • Will the caregiver dispense medication?
  • Will the caregiver transport the parent to medical appointments?
  • Will the caregiver prepare meals and perform household errands?
  • Will the caregiver stay overnight or just come by daily?
  • What are the caregiver's licensing qualifications?
  • What are the caregiver's certifications or degrees (nursing, MS in social work, etc)?

An in-home caregiver can give your parents more independence and peace of mind, but you do want to ensure the right fit. Sometimes staying in the home isn't the best choice, even with consistent, professional in-home help. At that point, it's time to explore assisted living or full elder care residential facilities.

3. When is it time to consider an assisted care or full care residential facility?

Many aging parents are reluctant to leave their home. They equate living at home with being independent. Living at home with in-home care may be the right choice for some, but not for others. It's important to consider issues related to independence, safety, social isolation, and medical needs.

In order to make the in-home versus assisted living decision, you should work with your aging parents' medical provider to consider the issues at hand--factors such as memory, medication, mobility, transportation needs, self-care (of home and person), and hygiene.

If an assessment is made that the aging parent isn't able to manage many of the facets of daily independent life at home with a part-time caregiver, then it may be time to consider moving to an assisted or full-care residential facility.

This isn't a decision to be made lightly, so it's best to work with your parents' doctors to ensure that you're finding the top facility for their unique care needs. They can help steer you in the right direction.

Making care decisions for our aging parents can be overwhelming. It's important to ask the right questions, work with your parents' medical providers, and carefully weigh the pros and cons. Take heart that the right care situation will benefit not just your mom or dad, but your entire family.