While millions of grown children across the United States are helping care for their aging parents, just as many assume mom or dad will let them know when they need help.
That’s just one common myth that keeps people from making a plan for when age-related health issues arise. Here are four more – and some tips for getting a plan in place before a sudden event throws the family into turmoil.
Myth #1: If they need to move to a facility, Medicare will cover it or they can live with me.
Medicare does not cover long-term nursing care or assisted living. Period. It does offer limited coverage for short-term rehabilitative care at a nursing home. It will cover also home health care services for a limited time on a physician’s order, usually following an injury or triggering event. Medicaid, the health care program for low-income people, may cover nursing care if the senior has exhausted their financial resources. Income levels vary by state.
When it comes to living with their children, many seniors say, “No thank you.” Older adults fear being a burden to their children more than dying, according to a 2010 Genworth Financial study. It’s a role reversal that can be challenging for everyone.
Other challenges include the layout of your house. Does it have wide doorways, step-in showers with grab bars and a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor? Are you able to provide the services and the stimulation that are key to aging well?
Myth #2: I’ll know when they need help.
Age-related declines are often so gradual that people closest to the situation can’t see it, and humans are quite good at masking behaviors they don’t want others to see. Parents who “don’t want to be a burden” or don’t want to leave their home often find ways to hide or shrug off changes.
Sometimes changes are sudden, making it hard for out-of-town children to spot. The death of a spouse is often a triggering event, particularly if that person was the sole driver or handled many of the responsibilities.
Myth #3: It’s too expensive to move or bring in help.
More options are available to families than ever before. Some service-rich senior living arrangements compare well to the costs of staying put and provide far more benefits.
If that’s not an option, even a few hours of senior home care services a few days a week can make a big difference.
There are real costs attached to isolation. Research studies are showing that people with strong social connections and a feeling of purpose live longer, have lower rates of depression, and can even have lower rates of physical conditions like high blood pressure.
It is possible that bringing in help or getting your parent in a more engaging environment can roll back some of the “aging” you’re seeing.
The best advice is to do your homework like any good kid. Contact local retirement communities and assisted living facilities to see if your parent is a fit. If you suspect memory issues, don’t delay. Contact your parent’s physician for a screening.
Talk to your parent about the possibility of bringing in senior home care as a “try out” to help with a chore or take them on an errand. Often, they discover the value pretty quickly.
Whatever you do, brush away the myths. Aging requires a plan.