Questions to Ask

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Are you wondering if your parents or other aging loved ones are beginning to need a little help to continue living independently? If so, you aren’t alone, and  you probably have some questions about how to get them the help they need.

Everyone’s first question is usually about the cost of care, but that question is premature. Before anyone can tell you how much care will cost, you should first understand what kind and how much help is needed, along with answering lots of other unknowns.

What kind of help your parents need will determine necessary skills and resources. If all your parents need is basic housekeeping like dusting, vacuuming and laundry, that could easily be covered by a part-time housekeeper, or even an older grandchild who lives close by. Chris lived with his grandmother when he was in high school so his commute was closer, and he did lots of little things to help her maintain her independence during those years. If, however, your mom or dad’s needs are more personal in nature, like help with bathing, toileting, and dressing, it might feel embarrassing or inappropriate for you or another family member to provide the necessary care. In times like these it might be best to hire a home care provider who can come one or more times weekly to take care of what needs doing for your aging loved ones. Often your home care company will do the housekeeping chores as well as the personal care requirements so you know your parents are well cared for. 

Next you need to assess how much help is needed. Some people need someone to be with them every day, while others only need someone to come once or twice a week. Overnight care is best for those who have balance or mobility issues and frequently need to get up in the night for bathroom needs, and also for anyone with advanced dementia. Of course, a loved one who would not be able to leave the house independently during an emergency should not ever be left alone.

Home Instead has developed a Care Calculator that can help you assess objectively what kind of care and how much care your mom or dad might need. When you complete the survey questions, your results will be sent to the Home Instead office and someone from the Client Care team will reach out to interpret how much care is needed. This is a free consultation and does not obligate you to Home Instead in any way.

Now you must consider your available resources since you have a pretty good idea of how much care is needed. Can any local family members or close friends and neighbors pitch in and help out? Are there community-based services like your Area Agency on Aging or the Alzheimer’s Associationyou can tap into? Does your parents’ church have a list of individuals that are available to help out on an occasional basis or in an ongoing arrangement? Does your dad or mom’s care require medical training? You should start by looking at what services can be obtained for little or no cost. Once you have taken the time to assess your resources and come up with a plan, check to see if any additional care is needed. If it is, it is likely time to ask the cost question at this juncture.

If the required care is more medical in nature, you might need to engage an agency or trained individuals like certified nurse aides (CNA’s) or even licensed practical nurses (LPN’s). Private funds or a Long-term Care Policy are commonly used to cover costs. Medicare doesn’t pay for services like home care and personal care for individuals still living independently within our communities, so that probably isn’t an option. For those needing someone to be with them 24/7 without family involvement this becomes extremely expensive for one-on-one medical care, but the alternative is moving into an Assisted Living Facility, which is still private pay in most cases, or into a Skilled Care Facility (like a Nursing Home). The pandemic has certainly heightened our awareness of the health risks associated with facility living during a viral outbreak, and almost all older adults would prefer to grow older in the comforts of the home where they currently live.

From here the cost of care becomes a simple math problem, at least in terms of what comes out of someone’s bank account…or does it? The outright cost would be calculated by how many hours of care are provided by someone earning a paycheck, divided by the hourly rate associated with the care being provided. Genworth has a good cost estimator here. But what about the cost to personal lives, relationships, careers, marriages, and families? There is always a cost associated with being a family caregiver, and with providing the necessary care to a loved one. What is the actual cost burden to you, the primary family caregiver? 

Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about asking questions and finding answers to help your parents age in place.

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