If today you are blissfully unburdened by responsibility for an elderly parent, one day you will be, as all of us are bound to be. It doesn’t come upon you all at once though. It usually starts with little episodes of memory loss. Your father who would never forget your wedding anniversary or your birthday, seems to no longer really care to remember. He tells the same stories over and over again, and seems to not even be aware that he’s told it before. Time flies, and almost as if overnight, your old father or mother can no longer be independent. And like so many people charged with elderly health care, you spend perhaps 25 hours every week helping with doctors’ appointments, meals, and oh, so many things. You notice that doing all of this on top of taking care of your own family, becomes a terrible burden. Or perhaps you are just retired and were only just beginning to enjoy the peace and quiet of your golden years, when your mother broke something seriously in the fall. Your whole life in an instant becomes all about taking care of her. If this is you, you need to know that 20% of America is caught in the same predicament. That number will double in a mere 50 years.
Taking elderly healthcare seriously is such a wrenching experience that it can break families apart. Your time is no longer yours, and you are not allowed to feel frustration – because after all, it’s your parent. It could help you cope with your situation better if you thought about it before it actually came to be. Let’s find out what we do in a situation of forced elderly healthcare, to feel better, to cope better.
It’s understandable enough. No one really wants to talk about such depressing things when a parent is actually healthy. About the best thing to do though, would be to bring this up with a parent, and ask them how they see their future. It would be best if you do this when your father or mother wass young and aware enough to actually participate in the conversation. There could be many possible ways to start the conversation – if there is a commercial for a new assisted living place, that could get the conversation started. If there is a friend of your father’s who recently had a stroke, that could help you discuss elderly health arrangements too. And finding a way to have some parts of the conversation held with your brothers and sisters all around, would be a thoughtful thing too.
Once people take on the caregiver role for their parents’ health needs, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to begin to wonder at some point how long it might last before one gets to have one’s life back. If you wonder about this too, here’s how it goes – about one out of seven caregivers have it last ten or more years; and on average, people spend about five years with their parents’ elderly health needs. It used to be that parents would get a stroke, a heart attack, and that would be it. Healthcare advances were inadequate to make them last after an affliction like this. Medical science may not have figured out quite yet how to give people quality of life; it certainly has figured out how to drag things on interminably though.
Some parents have the conversations with their grown children and hit upon an idea – they actually hire their children to be their elderly health care providers. The draw up a contract, and make it official how much they’ll pay their children. This is of course necessary if the grown-up child has a job that he or she has to leave to take care of a parent. Make sure that the contract is properly drawn up. Or else, whatever the parents pay the child may come to be seen by the government as a gift, and the parents could lose eligibility for nursing home care under Medicaid. But in the end, taking care of your parents’ elderly health needs can be as rewarding as taking care of your own little child. As much as it takes out of you, it helps you reconnect.