According to AARP, nearly 70 percent of Americans who reach age 65 will someday require help from others to get through their day.
When crisis strikes and emotions run high, even those with the best decision-making skills can experience uncertainty. Making life-changing decisions unexpectedly after a parent has been hospitalized or has had a significant change in health can feel rushed.
Families who haven’t discussed long-term care options with a parent prior to a crisis may end up making a long-term care decision for them. The process can feel rushed, and limited availability may leave you with few options to choose from.
Should we just consider family caregiving?
Some families also consider family caregiving due to the limited amount of time they have to make a decision. In fact, 53 million Americans of all ages devote a portion of their day to feeding, driving, cleaning, paying bills, and making sure the medicine gets taken by a loved one not able to do these tasks on their own.
Living with an aging parent changes the parent-child relationship. There are certainly many benefits to living in a multi-generational home. For some families, it adds to the stress and chaos of an already busy lifestyle or causes strain in family relationships.
Caregiving can be one of the most rewarding experiences. It can also be one of the most stressful. Often, caregivers become so concerned with caring for their loved one that they lose sight of their own well-being.
While moving a parent in with you and becoming a family caregiver might provide you some much-needed time to consider other long-term solutions, careful consideration should be given when considering your ability to juggle caregiving with other responsibilities you have, such as a job, caring for your own children, or balancing management of your own health.
If you do plan to take on the responsibility of family caregiving, a medical information worksheet can prove to be extremely helpful in organizing all of your parent’s physicians, medication information, and other important details in one place.
How to start the search if a parent needs assisted living now
If your parent needs long-term care now and you are considering assisted living, here’s some helpful tips:
1. Call a Family Meeting
If your siblings want to play a role in making the decision, it’s better to have a discussion as soon as possible. Challenging family dynamics can cause added stress to making care decisions when in crisis, so it is important that everyone involved in making the decision has the same goals and understanding of what your family is looking for as you research options.
2. Have a Clear Understanding of What Assisted Living Offers
The world of long-term care is complex. A wide variety of options from home care to assisted living to nursing home care exist. The concept of assisted living is new for many families. Assisted living is less restrictive than nursing home care, but the two options are often confused with each other.
Read the eBook: Is assisted living just like the nursing home?
Understanding what assisted living can provide your parent and what support looks like when balanced with independence is important. Be sure you have a clear understanding of what assisted living can offer when determining if this is the right solution for your family.
Read our Guide: The Complete Guide to Assisted Living
3. Approach the Conversation with Your Parent Carefully
Quick decisions about long-term care because of a crisis can leave a parent feeling helpless and like they have completely lost control of making their own decisions. Approaching this conversation with empathy and understanding is key. Empower your parent to be a part of the decision — as much as they can be.
Read the eBook: How to Have “The Talk” with an Aging Parent
4. Gather Important Financial and Legal Information
A living will, power of attorney paperwork, your parent’s birth certificate, and their social security card are among the few pieces of information you will need to track down (if you haven’t already). The process of gathering financial and legal information alone can feel overwhelming. Share the responsibility with other family members, if possible, and be sure you have a way to keep track of what you’ve gathered and what you will still need to collect.
Download the Legal and Financial Document Locator Worksheet
5. Use Google to Research Assisted Living Communities
Some assisted living communities offer transportation, some don’t. Some communities offer three meals per day, and some only offer one. Assisted living communities can vary significantly from one to the next. Make a list of features and must haves, and spend some time researching the options in your area.
Download the Checklist: How to Research Assisted Living Communities
6. Visit Assisted Living Communities
After doing some preliminary online research, visiting an assisted living community is typically the next step. Identify who will visit, what questions you will ask, and how your family will discuss the visit after.
Download the Checklist: Questions to Ask When Touring an Assisted Living Facility
7. Consider a Respite Stay
A respite stay can alleviate the stress and pressure of making a long-term solution while giving you a short-term plan that helps your parent with the support they need.
Short-term respite stay residents live in fully furnished suites, and typically receive three meals a day, housekeeping and laundry services, personalized care, and medication assistance. They typically also have access to many of the amenities and programs available to full-time residents.
Most importantly, they will be supported in living as independently as possible and encouraged to stay mentally, physically, and socially engaged while also having their daily needs taken care of by a specially trained staff in a safe and secure environment.
A short-term respite stay can provide the time you need to vet possible long-term options while giving your loved one the opportunity to try out a community prior to a permanent move.
Making long-term care decisions while a parent is in the hospital isn’t ideal - especially if your family has never had the discussion before. If your family isn’t in crisis, having conversations with your loved one early can give you some much needed direction should a crisis strike. Starting the search as early as possible so you can thoroughly research and explore your options allows you to compare all that senior living has to offer — not just care.