Elder Care “Family Planning” and Those Difficult Conversations

…a 2 minute read

elder care

Most people think of “family planning” as a road map to parenthood but it’s also an important aspect of elder care and senior living. Planning ahead for where and how your parents will live as they lose independence is an important part of elder care family planning. It takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a village to care for our parents in their elder years. This month, we’ll focus on elder care and best practices designed for optimal quality of life for seniors.

Conversations you feel like avoiding, but shouldn’t, when planning ahead for elder care.

One of the most challenging aspects of caring for my parents was dealing with their senior living situation, which ultimately became completely inadequate for their medical needs. My parents owned a beautiful two-story town home in a very desirable section of town. They put a lot of love into they owned for over twenty years.

As their health began to deteriorate, I encouraged them to sell and downsize as I dreaded the possibility of them falling down the stairs; this was my experience of one of those difficult conversations every child has to have with a parent as independence dwindles. I also had to have “the talk” about giving up driving.

But my parents wouldn’t budge. Eventually, that home became inconvenient in our caregiving efforts, as the only shower was upstairs and my mom’s in-home hospice care was set-up downstairs. My dad was still well enough to sleep upstairs, but eventually he fell (thankfully not down the stairs, but he broke his hip, nonetheless — a very common injury among the elderly) and he too, had to sleep downstairs. The whole first floor became a medical unit, with only one half-bathroom.

Lessons learned

The lesson learned here: as we get older, we should downsize our personal belongings and our living spaces. As a family committed to elder care, we should consider every medical contigency. Resources do exist today to plan ahead for different scenarios.

As morbid as this may sound — nobody ever wants to talk about this, understandably — we all have to ask our parents and ourselves this question: where would I choose to die? 

A parent will plan ahead and pick a hospital to birth a baby or perhaps choose a doula to assist in a home birth. We plan for coming to life, not ending it. We make funeral arrangements to ease that burden on our children but we don’t plan for the weeks leading up to the funeral. Not everyone passes away in a hospital from illness or naturally from old age.

As responsible caregivers, we need to and should  have this conversation with our parents. We have touch decisions to make, but it’s even harder if we don’t plan and implement ahead.

For me, in-home care seemed like the best way to care for my parents. I’m not a fan of Assisted Living Facilities, nursing homes or any other option that takes parents away from hearth and home, which is where the “heart” lives.

Think of it this way: when you become a parent to your parents, you should treat them with the same care as you would your own children. With the exception of boarding school, would you want your toddler to live away from you?

This is where home care services play such an important role in elder care family planning.

In our next post, we will continue exploring elder care family planning and look at some innovations around the world that allow for a more family-oriented approach for elder care.

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

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