By Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC
May is Aging Life Care™ Month, which has me thinking about how supporting an aging parent can feel so daunting. We see it every day in our work as Aging Life Care Professionals®.
Time consuming. Caring for an aging parent takes so much time: multiple phone calls a day (sometimes within an hour!), numerous medical appointments (if only they would agree to go), hours in the ER, and repeated check-ins for reassurance.
Stressful. Juggling work, kids, relationships, and other demands on your time increasingly feels unmanageable, especially as your parents demand more and more from you. Every time you plan a vacation, one of them inevitably lands in the hospital.
Confusing & overwhelming. Your parents continue to refuse any formal help and won’t even admit there is a problem. If only they would move. Or your siblings would do more! The hospital social worker gave you a stack of information, but it remains untouched on your desk. Your dad is so stubborn, it’s all pointless anyways.
Daunting. Your online research only makes the options more confusing. You end up with more questions than answers. Should you force them to move? Which caregiving agency is reputable? Maybe their housekeeper should also do the grocery shopping or start making meals? What about hiring that nice lady at church to help? Why is their doctor still letting them drive? What if they just move in with you?
Expensive. All of the options are so expensive. Round-the-clock caregiving can reach as high as $20,000+ a month in many areas. Moving can cost less…until significant help is needed. Even though your parents have the financial means, they have always been frugal and will never agree to the costs. You are willing to contribute but paying for college is just around the corner.
Here’s how an Aging Life Care Professional can smooth the ride:
Save time & money. A consultation with an Aging Life Care Professional saves you valuable time. We walk you through all of the options, including analyzing the pros & cons to your parents staying at home or moving into a retirement community. Every situation is unique. We help you make plans that fit your parents’ finances, quirky personalities, divergent care needs, and loudly-stated desires. We assist you in making decisions that their finances can support now and down the road. Most importantly, we help you implement them.
Clarity & confidence. An Aging Life Care Professional will help you understand all of your choices. This knowledge will bring clarity to the decisions that you need to make. Sometimes starting small and going slow will actually get you further in the long run. We help you navigate the delicate balance of honoring fierce independence vs keeping them safe. We even help get challenging siblings (or step-parents) on the same page. Having an outside guide and unbiased expert is often the missing piece of the puzzle to move from crisis to action. We can often predict what will come next so we can help you shift from putting out fires (sometimes literally!) to being proactive.
Peace of mind. Watching your parents decline is not easy and brings up many emotions — sadness, anger, frustration, and guilt (oh, the guilt!). Eventually it will take a toll on your health, mood, and family. Work performance often suffers. Having an experienced professional help you navigate this long journey can provide great relief. You don’t have to do this alone.
You can find an Aging Life Care professional in your area at www.aginglifecare.org. We are here to help.
Lisa Mayfield is the founder and co-Principal of Aging Wisdom®, an Aging Life Care™ practice in Seattle. Trained and licensed as a Mental Health Counselor, Geriatric Mental Health Specialist, and a Certified Care Manager, Lisa brings over two decades of experience working with older adults and their families. She is currently serving as the President of the Aging Life Care Association board of directors.
If you have any questions, please contact Specialized Care Management and one of our private Care Managers will love to speak with you.