Before you could even walk or say a word, your parents took care of you. Now they’re getting older and they need your care. They may not be as fragile or as helpless as you were as a newborn baby, but you see the signs of decline. Your dad shuffles with uncertain steps. Your mother forgets to pay a bill. Simple, daily tasks frustrate and exhaust them. Their “normal” has become overwhelming, which means your normal has turned overwhelming, too.
You want the best for your aging parent, but what is the best? How can you give your mom the care she needs without compromising her dignity? How can you help your dad keep living as fully and independently as possible, even as his capacities diminish?
The good news is that they can receive care in any setting that they call home. Home health care can cover the entire span of health care needs, from assistance with daily tasks (meals, laundry, bill paying) to personal care (bathing, dressing, medication management) to physical and occupational therapy to skilled nursing care for those who need around-the-clock assistance including:
- Private homes: The least disruptive option, and the best choice for seniors who want to age in the comfort of familiar surroundings. In-home care may be provided to meet the current and changing needs of your parents, helping to keep them living as safely and independently as possible.
- Senior living/independent communities: An excellent choice for fit and active seniors looking to downsize. Independent living communities, also known as senior living or retirement communities, retirement homes, or senior housing, do not traditionally offer nursing care among their services; however, many are linked to assisted living and nursing care facilities (see below). For those residents who need a little extra help, care services from a home health care provider is an option for those choosing to live independently. What these communities do offer is a built-in social life with other retirees, along with a wide array of activities including exercise, games, lectures, movies, concerts, and trips to keep residents engaged and stimulated.
- Assisted living communities: For seniors who need some assistance, this option provides private rooms or, sometimes, apartments in a residential community dedicated to long-term senior care. Meals, medication management, bathing, dressing, and transportation are often part of the support services offered. As in retirement communities (see above), additional home health care services can be added by an independent provider. Assisted living homes usually offer plenty of opportunities for social engagement and programs to keep both brain and body active.
- Nursing homes: For those with a severe illness or disability, nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities or convalescent homes, provide 24-hour monitoring and medical assistance. Nursing home patients typically suffer from chronic or degenerative conditions, such as cardiac and respiratory diseases, or dementia. Some residents, though, are recovering from hip fractures or infections and may even be able to return to their own homes and transition to home health care assistance in their homes. Many nursing homes today also offer a range of activities suited to residents’ physical and cognitive capacities.
Regardless of where your parents call home, they can receive the care they need to stay safe and to enjoy their highest quality of life. The right solution depends on a combination of factors including individual temperaments, health care needs, and financial resources. Talk to your parents about their wants and needs. Ask them (and yourself):
- How much assistance do they need? Now? In the future?
- How do they handle change and transitions? Do they find change stimulating or unsettling?
- Do they want to stay in their home? Or will downsizing make their lives easier?
- Do they have close friends and neighbors and strong community roots? Or will they be rejuvenated by meeting new people in a new community?
These answers will help you make the best decision for them—and for you.