5 steps to prepare for eldercare

Are you a member of the Sandwich Generation? According to the Pew Research Center, 47 percent of adults over 40 have both a parent over 65 and a child under age 18, meaning they are sandwiched between responsibilities to their parents and to their children simultaneously.

Some people help their aging parents by transitioning their parents to assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Others hire a nurse to visit their parents regularly and provide care. Still others move Mom and Dad into their own homes, often to save money and ensure reliable care-taking.

If you anticipate that you are going to be taking an aging relative or parent into your home, take these steps now to prepare your home for eldercare:


1. Install mobility assistance devices

Whether your elderly relative is fully mobile or in a wheelchair, it is a good idea to prepare your home by installing mobility assistance devices. Add grab bars to bathtubs to help older relatives enter and exit, and put down grip mat both inside and outside the tub to prevent slipping. Depending on your bathroom layout, you may need grab bars on either side of the toilet as well.

Depending on your relative’s needs, you may need to build a wheelchair ramp next to your porch, or add a bar to help your relative walk down a long hallway. Talk to your relative as well as his or her doctor to determine which mobility accommodations are necessary.

2. Offer as much privacy and personality as possible

Your aging parent is likely to feel embarrassed about leaving his or her home and moving in with you. Mom or Dad is also likely to miss the basic comforts of home, such as privacy. Solve this problem by turning over the master bedroom, with its ensuite bath, to your aging parent. If this room is upstairs or otherwise unavailable, make sure your parent’s room is viewed as a private, personal space.

Allow your parent to use favorite furniture from the old home, as well as any artwork, knick-knacks or other decorations. Make sure the room is stocked with healthy snacks, and consider installing a mini-fridge or microwave; many aging parents would rather go hungry than bother their children for food between meals.

3. Prepare for medical emergencies

With aging relatives, it’s inevitable that you will have a medical emergency at some point. Prepare in advance by planning how you will make arrangements at work, as well as making sure you have all of your relative’s medical and insurance information at hand. Some families even purchase small medical devices, such as automated external defibrillators, to prepare for emergencies. (Yes, it’s safe and legal to use these defibrillators, after appropriate training.)

Don’t forget to stock up on basic medical necessities: ACE bandages, tennis balls for the ends of a walker, AED batteries for the defibrillator. The more you stock up in advance, the better prepared you’ll be.


4. Talk about finances

It is important to talk to your relative about finances. This is often difficult, especially when taking in an aging parent. However, you need to communicate about the additional costs involved in eldercare, and whether those costs will be paid by a parent’s Social Security fund, a retirement account, or your own paycheck. Don’t make assumptions – these only lead to hard feelings down the line. Talk to your relative and create an arrangement that works for both of you.


5. Talk about what happens next

This is the hardest conversation of all. You and your relative have to talk about at which point it becomes appropriate to switch to full-time professional nursing care, as well as what to do in a catastrophic medical situation. At some point, you need to talk about things like organ donation and funeral arrangements.

You do not need to have all of these conversations on the first day your relative enters your home, but you do need to begin thinking about them now. What happens if your parent needs more care than you can provide? What happens if you have to choose between caretaking and your job? Start preparing now by thinking about these questions.

Use these five steps as a way to prepare your home – and your life – for an elderly relative. Do you have other suggestions for members of the Sandwich Generation? Let us know in the comments.

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