What happens when your aging parent can no longer care for themself?
When mom or dad can no longer live safely alone, adult children are typically the ones who step up to help.
Are you considering caring for your aging parent? You’re not alone. Approximately 34.2 million Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult aged 50 or older, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.
Becoming a caregiver for your parent means more than just helping mom or dad out more at home.
Here are some of the things to know about becoming a caregiver for an aging adult.
What Tasks Become a Caregiver’s Responsibility?
When becoming your parent’s caregiver, you’ll want to be prepared for the day-to-day tasks they will need help with.
Everyone's needs are different.
Your parent may just need help with meal preparation and managing medications in their own home. Or they may be in need of assistance with more involved tasks, such as help getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, personal hygiene, or moving safely around the house.
Depending on your parent’s level of need, you may be responsible to help them with some or all of their daily needs, including:
• Buying groceries and cooking
• Cleaning house and doing laundry
• Providing transportation
• Managing medications
• Arranging medical appointments and sitting in on them
• Working with care managers, doctors, and nurses for medical care
• Helping with showering, grooming, and dressing
• Helping to use the restroom
• Helping them in and out of bed/chair
• Helping with physical therapy and performing medical interventions, such as injections, feeding tubes, wound treatment, or breathing treatments
• Arranging for assistance when you can’t be home
• Handling finances and other legal matters
• Being a companion
• Providing around-the-clock care
Approximately 46% of adult caregivers perform medical and nursing tasks, while up to 96% provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), which include dressing, undressing, getting out of bed, shopping for groceries, and transportation.
How Much Time Will You Spend Caregiving?
Caregiving can be time intensive.
• Family caregivers provide an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care.
• Nearly 1 out of 4 caregivers spend an average of 41 hours or more per week on caregiving activities.
On average, caregivers spend 13 days per month on tasks such as giving medication, shopping, food preparation, laundry, housekeeping, and transportation, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.
Caregivers also spend an average of 6 days per month feeding, dressing, grooming, bathing, walking, and assisting with toileting.
Caregivers dedicate an average of 6 hours per month researching health care, disease information, coordinating physician visits, or managing financial matters.
The greater your parent’s needs, the longer the list. Those who are in need of the most care are parents suffering from memory loss.
Does Your Parent Need Memory Care?
It is very common for the care of seniors with memory loss to come from loved ones. Approximately 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.
Family caregivers of people with dementia report spending an average of 9 hours per day caring for their loved ones. Caregivers of people with dementia or Alzheimer’s are more likely to provide care for a duration of 5 years or longer.
Your Home or Theirs?
It’s not surprising that most aging adults prefer to “age in place”, remaining in their own homes for as long as possible. Remaining at home can often come with challenges that are difficult to overcome. Older houses may need more upkeep, maintenance, and TLC to remain safe.
Will you be caring for your mom or dad at their place, or will you need to move them into yours?
While 48% of care recipients remain in their own home, that number changes depending on how much care an aging adult needs.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, the more hours of care a recipient needs, the more likely they are to reside in their caregiver’s home.
Whether it’s at your place or theirs, there may be some physical alterations required to make home safer for a senior. Modifications may be needed to make home more accessible for someone in a wheelchair, for example, or to reduce the risk of falls.
What Will Being a Caregiver Cost?
You can’t put a value on the reward of caring for your aging parents. Providing your parents with compassionate care can be priceless.
You can, however, put a price tag on the actual cost of becoming a caregiver.
A 2016 AARP report on the out-of-pocket costs of becoming a caregiver revealed that family caregivers spend an average of $6,954 on caregiving costs.
For many families, that total resulted in approximately 20% of their annual income.
Many times, families think becoming mom or dad’s caregiver is an inexpensive option that will save everyone money compared to other senior care options. It’s important to know, however, that becoming a caregiver is not always the cost-less choice.
Can you Balance Your Parent’s Needs and Your Own?
While you may look at caring for your parent as a sacrifice you are happy to make, it’s important to understand the impact this decision can have on your own wellbeing.
Unpaid caregivers report positive activities in their daily lives are reduced by 27.2% as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.
If you are still caring for your own children at home, becoming a caregiver for your parent can add even more complexity and responsibilities to your plate. According to Pew Research Center, about 12% of parents with children living at home are also providing unpaid care to an aging adult.
Evaluating their needs – and being logical about how fulfilling them will affect your life – is the first step to take when becoming your parent’s caregiver.
Be sure you are physically, mentally, and fiscally prepared to take on the caregiver role before you begin.
There a lot of support groups out there that not only provide you with a community to help you reduce stress, but can also be a great resource for learning tips and tools to help you succeed at caring for your parent while still prioritizing your needs.