As they get older, your parents are likely to need more help and support. In the tragic event of one elderly parent passing on, or being diagnosed with dementia, the need for enhanced care usually becomes far more pressing.
For children with elderly parents, working out when they can no longer live alone, and how best to care for them, can be a tricky business. Elderly parents understandably treasure their independence, and are unlikely to be proactive in making the choice to give it up. So the decision about when they can no longer live alone usually comes down to the children.
Alongside this decision comes the issue of what level of support they are going to need, and who will provide it. For many families, when an elderly member needs more support than they can receive living alone, this means moving in with children, and other family members taking on a caregiving role. But this approach comes with challenges, when it comes to balancing work, life, and caregiving.
In this article we are going to explore the issues around caring for an elderly family member, what you might need to know about the decision that a parent can no longer live alone, and whether you should take on the burden of being their primary caregiver.
Signs that your parent shouldn’t live alone
Knowing when your parent should no longer be living alone can be a challenge. Understandably, parents usually do not want to admit to you or to themselves that they can no longer manage, and so will be unlikely to make the first call. But there are several signs that you can watch out for, that indicate that it is perhaps time to consider more hands-on care.
For elderly parents living on their own, falling is something to be extremely concerned about. Without someone around to provide assistance, a fall can have far more dramatic consequences than just the immediate impact of the fall itself. If your parent is falling or having accidents around the home on a regular basis, it is probably time to consider the next level of care.
Your parent stops seeing people
Isolation can be a real problem for older people, so if your parent begins to withdraw and stops seeing other people, this is usually a sign that they might need more help, or a more sociable environment.
A messy/unclean house
Staying on top of chores like cleaning and tidying can be hard for older parents, and while small amounts of mess are nothing to be concerned about, things like stacks of unwashed dishes or infestations should be treated as red flags.
They neglect their own hygiene
Personal hygiene is something to pay close attention to, as lack of self-care is an obvious sign that things aren’t ok, and can even be one of the first indications of dementia. If your parent stops bathing, or cleaning their teeth, consider looking into additional care.
Often noticed as part of a breakdown in general cleanliness and tidiness, piles of unread letters, unopened subscriptions, and other mail can be an indication that your parent is not coping well with independent living. This might be for a physical reason, or due to cognitive decline.
If your parent begins to arrive late to agreed meet-ups, and starts to miss deadlines, it could be a sign that they are suffering from cognitive decline. This becomes particularly critical when they fail to pay bills or other payments. Additional support here might be as simple as taking over paying their utilities, but it might also mean further care is needed, or just around the corner.
As people get older, they tend to lose weight, so some weight loss is to be expected, and nothing to worry about. But any dramatic changes in your parent’s weight could be a sign of trouble. Whether it is a physical illness or a sign of personal neglect, it is worth checking out.
Difficulty with common/simple tasks
If your parents are finding ordinary chores and simple tasks more complicated than before, it is a sure-fire sign that they will need more help on a day-to-day basis soon. This might start as just struggling with their daily crossword, but it will soon manifest in other, more important ways as well.
They get lost often
When older people start to get lost when traveling to familiar places, or confused or disoriented in spots they know well, this is usually a sign of an underlying condition or issue, and a clear indication that more support is needed.
Miscalculation of medication
If your parents are on medication, and they start to forget to take it, or miscalculate the dose, this can be a serious problem. For elderly parents living alone, it is vital that they are able to take care of their own medical requirements, and if they are no longer able to do so, it is time to seek additional help.
Paranoia and defensiveness are often symptoms of dementia, and if your parent begins to exhibit a more defensive attitude towards everyday comments, or begins to become obsessed with conspiracy theories, it might well mean the time has come for them to no longer live alone.
Costs and benefits of quitting your job to care for your parent
For many children of elderly parents, becoming the primary caregiver seems like the easiest and most cost-effective way forward. And of course, family caregivers are vital for older people. But there are a number of things to take into consideration before quitting your job or giving up your life to care for your parents.
Save the costs of paying for help
There’s no denying it, professional care can be expensive. By becoming a family caregiver, you don’t have to pay for in-home care, or for the costs of an assisted living facility. However, there are other financial elements to consider when making this decision, and family caregiving doesn’t always work out cheaper.
No concerns over quality of care
Many children worry about the standard of care their parents will receive in care homes or from live-in carers. By taking on the burden of caring for their parents themselves, they are completely in control over the quality of care their loved ones receive.
No need to balance work and care
By quitting your job to care for your parents, you no longer have to worry about juggling work and care responsibilities. Caring for and supporting your elderly parents takes the place of full-time work.
Less anxiety about your parents
By taking on full responsibility for your parents’ care, you know exactly how they are being looked after and how they are doing, mentally and physically. This can reduce the anxiety that children feel about leaving the care of their parents in the hands of others.
Lack of income
Although caring for your parents yourself does mean you don’t have to spend money on professional help, it also means that you will no longer receive income from a full-time job. In the long-term this can be far more expensive than the alternative.
Being a caregiver is a challenging role, and caring for a parent can come with increased stress and responsibilities. In particular, giving up your life to care for a parent can have a dramatic impact on the relationship between parent and child. In many situations, as the burden of care increases, the loving, family relationship fades into the background, to be replaced by that of caregiver and patient.
Lack of social life
Elder care is a full-time responsibility, and for adult children responsible for the long-term care of their aging parents, a social life can become a thing of the past.
Signs you are taking on too much to care for elderly parents
As mentioned above, caring for a parent can have a dramatic impact on the relationship between parent and child. As well as causing fundamental changes in the way you interact with your parents, it is all too easy for a family caregiver to take on too much, and damage their own mental health, when it comes to caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Here are a few signs that you are taking on too much to care for elderly parents.
You’re feeling stressed out or having anxiety
If you are experiencing signs of stress or anxiety after taking on the caregiver role, it is possible that you are struggling to cope with the responsibilities and demands of caring for an elderly parent.
Your health is starting to decline
Some adult children find that caring for aging parents is so all-encompassing that they are unable to care for themselves properly, and their health begins to decline. This is a sign that you might need some support as a caregiver.
You’re struggling financially
Caring for elderly parents can be surprisingly expensive, as it usually involves quitting your job to take on full-time care. Family caregivers often find themselves in financial difficulty after taking on home care of family members.
Your relationships are suffering
Relationships can be difficult to maintain when you are responsible for your parents’ mental health. Not only is it likely that your relationship with your parents will suffer, but you will find it hard to live a normal life with ordinary friendships and relationships.
You don’t have the skills to do all of the caregiving tasks yourself
Health care for elderly people requires a specific skill set, and adult children do not always have the abilities needed to do all of the caregiving tasks themselves. Luckily there are a multitude of options that can help relieve you of some, or all, of your caregiving duties, if you can’t afford or don’t want to hire a full-time caregiver.
Senior Helpers provide a range of respite care services, personal care services, and companion care. No matter the type of care your loved one requires, Senior Helpers provides the perfect services for any of their needs, all done from home.
Companion care can provide friendship and conversation for your parents, including everything from help with hobbies to meal prep and housekeeping. Respite care takes the load off adult children who are acting as family caregivers, temporarily taking over responsibility for the care and support of your family member, while personal care offers a more comprehensive, in-home health care option. Whatever the type of care your loved one needs, our fully screened, trained and dependable caregivers provide sensitive, confidential care in a way that respects their dignity and well-being while helping them to remain independent for as long as possible.
Frequently asked questions about the available support for full-time caregivers
Can you claim an elderly parent as a dependent?
You can claim an elderly parent as a dependent and receive tax deductions from the IRS, as long as you yourself are not claimed as a dependent by another US taxpayer.
Can family members get paid for caregiving?
This depends on the policy, but many life and health insurance plans allow family members to be paid as long-term caregivers, directly from their parents’ benefits.
Are there any unemployment insurance benefits for caregivers?
If you have no other option but to quit full-time work in order to care for an elderly parent, then you are able to claim certain unemployment insurance benefits. The level of benefits it is possible to claim varies from state to state, but it is generally on the lower side.
What medicaid cash and counseling options are available?
The Medicaid Cash and Counseling program offers another source of income for family caregivers, as long as your parent is eligible for medicaid. These payments are designed to cover expenses you might encounter in caring for your aging parents.
Are there any VA benefits?
Veterans are eligible for some financial assistance, which can be used towards care provided by family members.
What do you do if you can no longer care for an elderly parent?
If you have taken on the care of an elderly parent, there may come a time when you find you are no longer able to shoulder the duties and responsibilities that long-term care entails. If you find you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above, then it might be time to look elsewhere for support.
Luckily, there are a number of programs that can offer help and support when it comes to caring for aging parents. Meals on Wheels provides healthy meals to help with cooking, as well as offering friendly visits, companionship, and safety checks to ensure seniors are able to live independently for longer. Medicaid is able to cover costs for non-emergency medical transportation, to help with doctor’s appointments, while Medicare can cover emergency visits. The senior companions program offers a network of community volunteers who provide support and companionship for elders. Finally, assisted living facilities and elder communities can offer a full-service home for aging parents who need round-the-clock care.
Becoming a caregiver to a family member is a big responsibility, and not a decision that should be taken lightly. While it can be immensely rewarding, it comes with significant challenges, and can often be detrimental to the health of adult children looking after elderly parents.
If providing full-time health care for your parents is not an option, Senior Helpers can help! Wherever your parents reside, we can offer in-home, personalized care ranging from daily companion care to in-depth specialized support for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and other chronic diseases. To find out more about what Senior Helpers can do for you and your family, get in touch today!