Helping Only Where Help is Needed!
Today we will discuss the topic of Family Caregiver Planning. We’ll be referring to a fictional elderly couple, which we’ll refer to as Mom & Dad. If you are reading on behalf of your parents, you may think of your family situation.
Mom & Dad have worked hard all of these years to save for their retirement. They have their home, a couple of vehicles and some cash assets in the bank. Mom has started to decline cognitively and Dad is trying his best to provide care for her at home. Money may be an issue in the near future as Mom needs more care. Now you and your siblings are looking for ways to help.
Mom & Dad have been retired for the last several years but money has never been an issue. Their monthly income has always exceeded their monthly expenses. Not only were they able to pay their monthly expenses, but they have been able to save some money every month. Now, however, Mom is starting to need more care. You fear that Mom & Dad’s monthly positive cash flow may soon turn into a monthly negative cash flow.
To help tackle this problem it’s important to focus on two primary areas of planning: Family Caregiver Planning and Money Stability Planning.
Family Caregiver Planning
Despite his heart issues Dad is attempting to provide care for himself and Mom at home. You’ve talked to Dad about this and he says things are going well and they don’t need any additional assistance. You feel that if he doesn’t receive help soon that he could suffer another heart attack, stroke or some other major negative health event. Parents are often reluctant to accept help. You may have to broach the subject of allowing family assistance very gently. It may take more than one ‘bite at the apple’. Meaning, it may take more than one meeting with Dad to resolve this issue.
One of our friends (and his siblings) made four separate trips to Mom’s house, each time after a fall, to discuss the idea of her agreeing to bring in non-medical caregivers or agreeing to move closer to one of her children. Each time Mom fell, her children would all make the several hour drive to her house to have the same discussion again.
The Mom in this case lived out in a rural area. The kids feared that after a fall, she may lay there for days before help arrived. This Mom loved her home and wanted to stay put. She refused the idea of non-medical caregivers coming into her home and initially rebuffed the idea of moving from her home. Finally after fall #4, the kids were successful in their efforts to convince her to move closer to one of them where she could receive the assistance that she needed.
Why the reluctance?
One reason for this reluctance to accept help that we have heard is the desire to protect their independence. As one Senior recently told me, “If we start accepting help at home, that the kids will take over, we will lose our independence and the nursing home is right around the corner”. Not a pleasant thought!
One other reason may be money. The Dad in this scenario knows that non-medical home care will cost around $20 per hour and he is trying to protect their hard earned nest egg. He feels that if he provides all of the care, he won’t have to spend their savings. He knows the kids are busy with their jobs and families and does not want to ask for their assistance. However, not bringing in help may jeopardize his health.
Family Caregiver Planning Action Steps
- It’s important at this point that the family gather together as soon as possible to do a Mom Centered Family Meeting. The purpose is to discuss your concerns with your parents about their care needs.
- One potential low cost and low intrusion solution is for the family to provide as much assistance as possible. If local family members are available who can contribute time to assist with care, these family members can coordinate schedules in a manner that will allow them to “drop by” or a regularly scheduled basis to help with needed tasks. To make sure that you are helping where help is needed most, you can start by doing a family assessment of both Mom & Dad.
When you do an informal Family Assessment, you observe which tasks that Mom & Dad are struggling with now that they could do well a few months ago. If the family can focus on those issues, they can provide the assistance where it is needed most. This should lift some weight off of Dad’s shoulders while providing much needed help.
In situations where the family is willing and able to help, this will provide the needed support and assistance to Mom & Dad without depleting their resources. The added benefit to Mom & Dad is getting to see their adult children more often. In situation where families are available and willing to help, this family help serves to (1) Target help where and where needed. (2) Protect Mom & Dad’s monetary resources; and (3) May even strengthen the family bond
This will also maximize the use of scarce resources – namely your time. By offering to help where needed and not help where not needed you will help to preserve your parent’s independence while helping you maintain balance in your life.
Best wishes to you and your family as you undergo your Family Caregiver Planning to assist your declining parents.
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