About a month ago we attended an out-of-town gathering with fifteen or sixteen friends plus spouses, all in the 50′s – 60′s age group. Every single person we met that evening had at least one aging parent who needed caregiving and support.
The variety of caregiving arrangements was interesting, and after a long evening of activities and conversation on many topics, here are my observations from the caregiving discussions:
- It is really hard to intervene. Most people do not know about activities of daily living (and how they can help to evaluate a parent’s situation) until a problem occurs.
- Quite a few people manage caregiving long distance because they do not live anywhere near the parent. In this situation a decision is made to keep the parent in a familiar location, though not always in the familiar house where he or she has lived for a long time. A number of these aging parents eventually move to assisted living or nursing homes, but usually within communities where they have friends, churches, doctors, etc.
- In some cases, at least one aging child is living near a parent, and this child is managing the parent’s care. Sometimes there is tension when one of the of the long distance aging children arrives to visit and is full of energy and suggestions. The caregiving sibling feels misunderstood. Siblings, even when everyone is working together, can complicate things.
- Some people, though not very many, move a parent to live in a location that is closer to an aging child. This is the solution we reached with my husband’s mother. It worked well for us and for Mother.
- The long-term policies that many parents purchased, many when such policies first became available, are not especially helpful in paying for care due to restrictions and limitations.
- In house, round-the-clock aides during the last three – twelve months of a person’s life does not appear to be an option that most aging children consider for their parents. Sometimes this option is eliminated for money reasons, but at other times the family wants the security or simplicity of a skilled nursing facility, especially if they are managing the caregiving from long distance.
- The most challenging aspect of caregiving, in terms of time and energy, is dealing with the medical appointments and all the doctors that can become involved. Getting doctors to communicate long distance is exceptionally hard.
- Even with all of the end-of-life documents in order, there are disagreements among an aging parent’s children on end-of-life care.