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Value of Care

Research the amount of care your loved one will receive with regard to the expense involved. You should reach a balance between your loved one’s current cost of living and the cost involved in his or her enhanced level of care received. Put these costs in perspective. Consider the types of services or items that may be included with the cost of an assisted living. Services such as laundry, housekeeping, and provided meals may end up providing a cost savings.

When Home Care Is Not Enough

Non-medical home care may provide monitoring, medication reminders, light housekeeping, cooking, and hands on personal care. Putting these services in place can be a life saver by allowing relief for family caregivers. However, these services may average from $15-25 an hour and are not typically covered by medical insurance.

What if family members are not available to fill in the gaps of time not covered by the home care provider? What if dad has some dementia, and is at risk of leaving home and getting lost?

Depending upon the level of need and the hours of monitoring/care needed, it may become cost prohibitive to maintain care at home. There comes a point in which an assisted living home or community may be a better value in terms of amount of care and cost.

The Value of Assisted Living

Assisted Living is never an inexpensive choice, but it may be a valuable choice. Family members oftentimes do not have the physical ability, emotional stamina, or time to spend the day with a loved one. As the needed hours for outside help increase, it may be worth a peek at the overall cost.

When families begin the process of investigating assisted living options, they are sometimes surprised by the fees involved. What do these fees cover?

Let's look at the math. Assisted living homes and communities usually include 2-3 meals a day, medication management, monitoring and security during the day and at night, certified caregiving and administrative staff, and housekeeping, just for starters.

What types of things won’t a parent need to pay for any more if they move out of their own home? Groceries, transportation, utilities, home repair, and in-home care are possible examples. Don’t be a victim of sticker shock. It may be that the value received by an assisted living option outweighs the cost of staying in the home.

Not One Size Fits All

Communities come in a variety of sizes and designs. Some communities are large groups of buildings in a resort style setting with lush and landscaped grounds, some appear more institutional in design, some are attached to skilled nursing facilities, while others are resemble a neighborhood.

When you open the door, what is inside? Fancy lobbies do not equate to better care. Layout and design can have significant impact on the flow of care and the comfort of the residents. Larger communities may offer room to roam and things to do. This might be a perfect fit for mom. But what if it feels too overwhelming?

Perhaps a smaller community would offer the best of both worlds. A community that offers activities, access to outdoor areas, quiet or private spaces but in smaller more intimate setting may fit the bill. What feels good? Listen to your gut. Does a place have a “good feel”? Often your gut knows better than you think!

Access to Nature

Contact with nature is known to have significant positive effects on older adult health. When choosing a new assisted living home, it is important to look at the environment of the home. Whether in a smaller or larger assisted living community, identify the residents’ connection to nature.

Does the community have easy access to the outdoors? Are the outdoor areas maintained in such a way that they are inviting and safe? Does the landscaping reflect visually interesting aspects of nature and with varied colors and textures?

Bird feeders, flowers, plants, and different seating options offer residents a way to connect with their outdoor world.

Discussions with Mom and Dad

The birds and the bees were bad enough but what about the discussion concerning aging and end of life? Discussions with mom and dad about aging and how they feel about its associated care can be uncomfortable for both parties.

These discussions may be emotionally charged or slow and scary. If everyone thought of aging and end of life in a positive manner, perhaps these discussions wouldn't be so daunting. But the fact is, they usually ARE daunting.

Often, there is a role reversal taking place. Adult children used to turn to their parents for support and comfort, but now the course may be shifting. Parents may become more debilitated or confused and may not be as socially involved. They therefore may be relying more upon their children to fill their needs.

A Reversal of Roles

A reversal of roles can be difficult for both the parent and adult child. The parent may be resistant to their children “stepping in” and assisting with day to day affairs.

The parent may feel a sense of powerlessness and loss of control over decision making. There may be fears about their own physical or cognitive decline and worry about becoming a burden on their child.

Involving the parent in each step of change or decision made, may ease these concerns for the parent. Preservation of dignity and respect is key in making this reversal transition go more smoothly.

The Reality of Parent Care

A child may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of taking over the physical, emotional, social and financial concerns of their aging parent. The reality of responsibility on top of their own life may seem unmanageable.

Depending upon the past and current relationship between parent and child, there may be feelings of resentment, apprehension, or inadequacy.

Reaching out for help and advice may lessen the worries of the child. A local agency on aging may be a good place to start. Often these organizations have information about local resources, support, and education.

Arranging for Care

You have identified that a parent needs assistance. This may be hands-on assistance or simple "check-in" companion care. Avoiding a conflict at the front door is a good start. What type of care does your parent want? What type of care will they accept? What type of care do you think your parent needs? Having a conversation with your parent ahead of time preserves their independence and is respectful.

This conversation may eliminate an uncomfortable first visit with the companion. What if your parent doesn't want help? A friendly neighbor or church member may simply visit and observe without making your parent feel intruded upon.

Once a relationship is established with the "visitor" or companion it will be easier to notice other areas of need. If there are more substantial needs identified, plan for the next step in care.

Advance Directives

Advance Directives can give a senior the voice to know feelings and wishes about end of life care are communicated and honored. These documents can assist in ensuring that medical decisions are in line with the senior's wishes.

This reduces the chance for being given too many treatments or perhaps not enough. It also reduces the potential for stressful decision making in time of crisis for seniors, their families, and caregivers.

Each state has its own rules and regulations about needed documents. When a senior moves to another state it is important to review these documents in the context of their new home.

It would be equally important for a senior to review their documents from time to time, due to changing feelings about one's circumstances and lifestyle.