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Life Health > Long-Term Care Planning

Putting Out The Welcome Mat For Ailing Parents

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When ailing parents can no longer live in their home, elder experts say boomers can counter the emotional and financial upheaval by following a simple series of steps. The first of these on everyones list is to talk about that possibility and to talk early.

Those discussions, along with the health of a parent, may make it easier to decide whether a parent should move in with a child or is better served at an assisted living facility, these experts maintain.

A discussion may help a boomer understand whether a parent wants to move into a home environment or a senior facility with “their own territory and their own friends,” says Dolores Misasi, a certified financial planner in Illinois. If a parent is open to it, take them to a couple of facilities when it first becomes a possibility, even if it is one or two years down the road, she says.

And make sure that they are part of the decision, she continues. “No matter how childlike they become, they do not want to be treated as children. They want to be treated as adults.”

Several factors will help determine whether to bring a parent into ones home or not, Misasi adds.

The first, she says, is whether there is someone in the home to care for them. That caregiver should be good with an older person, she adds. As a case in point, Misasi says her daughter-in-law is a nurse with a very caring personality. “If it ever reaches that point, thats where Im moving,” she states.

If a parent moves in and everything is wonderful, it still disrupts life, Misasi says. “Some are very good at handling it and others are not.”

Another important factor, says Dorothy Doyle, a certified financial planner from Florida, is finances. Among the questions that need to be asked are how much money they have, whether the parents have long term care insurance, and whether it covers home care, says Doyle.

If a parent has assets, she says, those assets could be used to allay costs, but it really depends on the family. Her mother, who is 81, and her father, 91, are both still active, says Doyle. But if they ever needed to leave their home and move in with a child, she says, there are several siblings who would vie to take them.

Even in such cases, other experts suggest an open talk sooner rather than later.

“Do not wait until the last minute when there is a crisis or a medical reason,” says Deborah Cloud, a spokesperson for the American Association of Houses and Services for the Aging, Washington.

Talking points should include what a parents wishes are, what community services are available, both immediate and future needs, and whether there is a support network nearby, says Cloud.

An open discussion needs to take place between siblings, too, she adds. If siblings do not agree on the next step, potential conflicts can be avoided by being sensitive to the opinions and situations of other siblings, Cloud continues. For example, it might be better not to second guess a sibling who is providing more of the care either because she lives nearby or is more responsible, Cloud says.

Conversely, she continues, the primary caregiver must keep the other children aware of what is going on.

And, if a parent ends up in a childs home, Cloud says, other siblings may want to relieve the child with primary responsibility for caregiving or pay for help to offer that relief.

Ed Long, executive director of H.E.L.P. (, a senior citizens counseling group in Torrance, Cal., agrees that time and communication are key. He cites a survey by AARP, Washington, that found parents and children think about these issues but are less likely to sit down and talk about them.

And when communicating, Long says there are a few simple rules: dont talk behind anyones back; and, realize that there will be disagreements and others opinions must be respected. “If there arent disagreements, I think that is weird.”

If differences arise over the next step for parents, Long recommends a care manager who can facilitate discussions and an ultimate decision on the next step. Care managers usually have a better idea of what local assisted living facilities are like if such an option is chosen, he says.

If a parent moves into a childs home, he explains, “it is like having a new roommate, but a roommate with a history.”

He recommends several things: know yourself; know your relationship with your parent; realize that your history with your parent may differ from your spouses history; and, when possible, have the parent contribute toward the household.

The last point, he explains, makes the parent feel part of the household and not as if he or she is a burden. Long recalls that when his father-in-law moved into a room vacated by Longs son, he wanted to contribute financially as well as pursue an interest in cooking by making the family meals.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, June 25, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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