With improvements in health care and other advancements during the past couple of centuries, the average life expectancy has increased. Because people are living longer, many of us will likely need some level of assisted care as we age. That task often falls on our adult children.

If you are caring for elderly parents, you are not alone. Today, there are over 40 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. Ninety percent of those individuals provide care for an aging family member.

A large number of unpaid caregivers are taking care of elderly parents. The urge to care for our parents is strong. Many adult children caring for elderly parents do so to keep their parents at home.

However, taking care of elderly parents can be a huge undertaking. Even though you may desire to be the caregiver for your parents, you might discover that you lack the resources, skills, or time to supply all of your parent’s needs. It can be even harder to provide care for your parents if they have unexpectedly become disabled or their health becomes suddenly worse.

There are several important things to consider before accepting the role of caregiver for your elderly parents.

How Much Care Do They Need?

Some elderly individuals need minimum assistance with their activities of daily living (ADLs) and health care needs. Other individuals may require extensive assistance with their ADLs and health care needs.

Activities of daily living generally include tasks required to take care of yourself and your needs, such as:

  • Dressing and undressing
  • Fixing meals and feeding yourself
  • Showering or bathing yourself
  • Being able to go to the bathroom, clean yourself, and get up and down from the toilet
  • Being able to move around in the home, such as getting in and out of bed or chairs
  • Performing personal hygiene activities, including shaving, brushing your hair, grooming, brushing your teeth, putting on deodorant, etc.

In addition to ADLs, you must assess whether caring for your elderly parents may require you to take over activities required to live independently. For example, can your parents cook and prepare their own meals, go shopping for themselves, or run errands? Can they clean house, manage their finances, and remember to take their daily medications.

Before deciding that you want to commit to taking care of elderly parents, make sure you complete a full assessment of the level of care your parents require. Making lists of all things that your parents can and cannot do for themselves can be very helpful when determining the level of care your parents need to remain in the home.

How Much Care Can You Provide?

Balancing your needs and your family’s needs with the needs of aging parents can be challenging. Caring for elderly parents may require a few hours a week or a few hours a day, depending on their needs and abilities. 

Consider all of your obligations before committing to becoming the primary caregiver for your elderly parents. Do you have a job, young children, or other obligations that need your attention and priority? How will you handle your obligations and the level of care your parents require?

These questions are difficult to answer. Your desire to keep your parents at home and out of a nursing home or other long-term care facility can cloud your judgment. 

If you are not realistic, you may burn out and or develop health problems. Likewise, your parents and the other members of your family may suffer because you are trying to do too much.

Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you have siblings and other family members willing to help with some of your parents’ needs, let them. Splitting up caregiver duties can be the thing that allows you to continue caring for your elderly parents at home.

What Is Their Financial Situation?

Your parents may be able to afford to pay for professional assistance with some of their care. If so, there could be several resources that can help you and your parents.

Some things that you might want to consider if your parents have the financial means include:

If your parents do not have the financial resources to pay for services, they may qualify for one or more government programs that assist the elderly, disabled, or incapacitated individuals. Most communities and states have offices that provide information about available programs for children who are caring for elderly parents.

Where Do They Live?

Where your parents live can have a direct impact on your ability to care for their needs. Most children want to keep their parents at home for as long as possible. However, if your parents’ health and medical needs become more than you can handle, you may need to consider other options.

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and independent living communities may be options if your parents cannot live independently in their homes. For many families, these facilities provide the care for their loved ones that they can no longer provide. However, they may worry about their parents being subjected to elder abuse or neglect if they place them in a long-term care facility. 

Can They Keep Driving?

Knowing when to take the keys from elderly drivers can be difficult. However, caring for elderly parents means knowing when they should stop driving. 

The chance of getting into a car accident increases with age. Health conditions, medications, and decreases in reflexes and mental capacity can result in a tragic car accident that hurts your parents and others. 

Dealing with a car crash, especially if your parent is at fault, can result in additional stress and financial burdens. A car accident attorney can help by handling the claim so that you can continue to focus on taking care of elderly parents.

Have You Discussed End-of-Life Issues?

If you are involved in providing care for elderly parents, you need to discuss end-of-life issues as soon as possible. These discussions can be difficult and emotional for everyone involved. However, you need legal documents in place that address these matters so that you can make decisions and act quickly in any situation.

Legal documents that you may want to consider having when caring for elderly parents include, but are not limited to:

  • Wills
  • Health Care Directives
  • Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Living Wills
  • HIPAA Releases
  • Medical Powers of Attorney

It can help to enlist the help of legal professionals as you discuss these topics and create end-of-life plans with your parents. 

It is best to address these issues as early as possible. If your parent develops dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or other incapacitating mental illnesses, you will need to go through the courts to obtain legal authority to make decisions for your parent.