Help My Parents Can Not Take Care of Each Other

by francy Dickinson                          www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My dad is 82 with mild dementia and osteoporosis and my mother is 80 with heart problems and weakness. They simply can no longer care for their own needs without my help. I have increased my time with them up to 2 hrs a day but I am at the end of my ability to care for them. We have no money for a retirement home and I do not know what to do? I have three siblings, all male and unable to give care and so I am on my own here.

OK, if there is simply no money (I understand they are in a smaller and older home) Here are some steps to help you out:

  1. Make sure you have your name on the Health Care Directive for both of them. This is a form that is filled out and it then goes to the notary so you can make decisions legally for your parents.
  2. Remove your attachment to your parent’s home and look at it with an eye if you were going to sell the home tomorrow. Walk through the house and mark down what has to be done to ready for sale. Heavy cleaning with older folks living there unable to see dirt or move furniture or refrigerators to get things cleaned. Walls need paint, wall paper needs to be removed, bathrooms need painting and new faucets, updating and kitchen needs declutter? Write it all down in a notebook. Edit down their things no longer used as much as you can and still keep your parents feeling safe and cozy in their home. Changes are hard for elders so make them with ease and in a quiet manner.
  3. Now, think about getting a reverse mortgage, that’s a way a lot of families are dealing with monthly income. Call a reverse mortgage place and have them come and look at the home and explain all the benefits and downfalls. That is what they will do. They will make a flat fee for doing the paperwork on the mortgage and it is done through the government, so you can feel free to take their time and ask questions. It means it is a way for your parents to get the money they have invested in their home out each month. Then when they pass the home is sold and if there is anything left it goes to their heirs on their will.
  4. Call a local real estate person and ask them to simply come and view the home and evaluate it for you. They will do this with the hope that you will use them as an agent when you choose to see the home. Also ask them if the home is rentable as an income instead of selling, they will know the area and give you guidance.
  5. Call the Veterans Association, if one of your parents has served in the military and see where they are on the health care coverage. You will find it’s a sliding scale according to the time and type of service they served. If the Vets will help with care you can enjoy their services and save some money on care.
  6. Call their Medicare supplement insurance company and tell them you need them to send you a booklet on the outline of what care their plans are providing. Then you know where you stand with money for services for your parents. Twice a year you can change Medicare supplement insurance companies, you may find that now that your parents are in a higher need of care, there is other insurance policies that will cover more of the costs. Make some calls and study the Internet on this issue, it can make a big difference in money spent.
  7. If they have attended a faith center call and ask what type of community care they provide. Often large faith centers have seniors that will give you an hour or two a week, a dinner program, or in home visiting program. It all helps.
  8. Ask about Meals on Wheels in your parent’s area, this program is delightful for seniors that no longer cook. You can supplement the extra pie or cookies, take them extras on the bigger meals you cook at home and still have the meals in the freezer for your parents to microwave. If they no longer can cook or reheat, then that option will not be there for you.
  9. Call the state welfare and ask for a booklet on what type of care they provide for seniors with small incomes and they will send you information on that form of help. This is really important, because once you know what money you have to work with you can then move on and hire help accordingly. Lets say the state will only give you food coupons, that means a couple hundred a month on their income that can be spent on care givers not food. It is a good thing to ask for help, it is there for elders and it has been paid for by your parents in their taxes for years. The state may also pay you to care for your parents so your own time with them could be increased with an income or other care services could be added.

Now that you know about their money income it is time to add to your in home care assistance or to a more traditional adult care home, or assisted living facility.

  1. It is not easy to keep a couple together in assisted living if they have different types of care required. Dementia has a staff trained to handle emotional problems and health side problems. Health care for mom takes care givers that are trained for challenging medications- those are two different care giving situations and it may take time and extra looking to find a facility or home that will fulfill both care issues. So start to call today, if you think your parents will need a spot to go to in the next few months. There are waiting lists in many facilities and you want to be prepared not stunned when the time comes to take that step. Even if you think it will be another year, talk and get on waiting lists.( This is what I do for my income, I help families find those facilities and make their senior’s transition into them. I do not charge the family a fee.)
  2. If you are going to be staying on as their care giver you have to know it will be a more time consuming effort than what you are giving now. You will sit down with your brothers and have a talk. It is no joke, this has to be an adult conversation about your parents, without your parents in the room. So you can be free to speak of their health challenges and let them all know that things are heating up and growing out of control for you personally to care for them. Many family members respond to money rather than time. So explain it will take a min of $10 up to $25 dollars an hour for in home care. If they need only 4-5 hrs a day that is $100 a day…that can add up fast and then show them your parent’s income. This is how people look at problems. To sit down and say, I need help is not enough —  show them, the needs, the time,and the money needed — that is what will shake them into understanding the problem.
  3. Tell them your options, you have now done your home work so show them the different ways that care can be given and afforded. Then ask for their support, not their help. If they have not helped in the past, they will not help now. But ask them to support you with additional money each month, even if they give you $35 a month that could buy the Ensure that your parents drink everyday, or the Depends they use, or help with a bath lady each week. Every small amount is appreciated and the commitment has to be long term. The bath lady has to be paid each week if they give the money or not. Make decisions on reality not promises.
  4. If the house is going to be sold to pay for your parents care, then you ask the family to help you ready it for sale. You may not be able to remodel or update, but you can clean. Just take one room at a time, clean out closets, give things to family and good will, do not put yourself through big yard sales, they are to hard on you. Giving time and care is overwhelming, do it with thought about your own health.
  5. Paint as many rooms as you can to give it a low key color update. Use colors that are popular in your area. Update little things like lite fixtures in the bathroom and new faucets in the kitchen. Use the inexpensive vinyl tiles that you can easily put down over old vinyl floors, remove carpets if the house has wood floors and polish the floors. If you plan your actions over the next two months with help from your brothers on room by room, the house will look fresh and clean and update the yard to make it have nothing junky outside and just a clean lawn and some bark on the flower beds. Then you will be able to get the most for the house without remodel prices.
  6. You will need to keep your parents calm while you are doing this so if the project is big ask a brother to take one or both of your parents for a weekend so you can do the work without them worrying over it all.
  7. If you are not going to sell the home right away, still do as much of work as you can as you go along. The day of selling the home will be close in the future and work has to be done now or then.
  8. You will need to call an in home health care service. They have trained nurses, PT, OT, nutrition and bath ladies. They also handle the care giving with light housekeeping, cooking and tending care givers. All trained, bonded and ready to help you with chores for your parents. What you can not do, they fill in. This is easiest way to get help. You can add a few hours a week at first, a bath lady is my favorite pick and then increase as the need and finances are there for extra help. They are also ready to be your back up if you are unwell and unable to attend to your parents needs. They will come to your home and do a review and then you set up a plan of needs.
  9. If you choose to directly hire someone to cover for you each day, make sure you do a background check and call the references, you want a quality person to care for people you love. Horror stories can be avoided with doing a good check on the person’s prior job abilities and people skills. No smoking, drinking or drugs are allowed by any care giver so let them know that from the get go. Ask your Tax Person how to make the payment to the person you hire on your own. A service takes care of all taxes and pays your caregiver for you. I you hire a person on your own, payment for the person is up to you. Remember to ask if the care givers are a tax deduction for your parent’s taxes too. Remember if your parent or parents are in your home, they can be your own tax deduction for their care.

Now, I have a workbook that was designed for family members to read and use if they have never had any training in caring for a seniors. You will find my book under Products page of my website www.caregivingwithspirit.com. Its called Care Giving 101 Workbook and you can download it as an E-book or as a printed workbook sent to you via mail. That will detail the basic care giving needs and how to handle them for you as time goes on. I have both health and Alzheimer’s tips in the workbook. Its been a great help for many who are facing giving care to parents and or spouses.

Hope this all helped you – you can find me on Twitter @seniorcaretips and this wordpress site has many older blog entries that you will find helpful as you add giving care to an already busy life with your own family and job. I also have a talk radio site that is fun to give a listen – its an easy click from my website…thank you for your time and blessings on your giving care.

Please do send me emails if you have a question on care, I am happy to help. francy

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