Preparing for the role reversal of parenting a parent is no easy feat. Now, more than 43 million Americans care for someone 50 years old and older, according to a 2011 facts and figures report by the Alzheimer’s Association.
So it’s not uncommon for children to be making critical health care, financial security, living situation and end of life decisions for a parent.
Unusual signs and changes in behavior may be the first indication that a parent may need outside help.
“First of all, look for any bruises to indicate any type of falls and listen to cue words like if they say they got lost,” says Debbie Robertson, sales and marketing director of assisted living facility The Bridge at Orlando. She also recommends looking for changes such as weight loss, disinterest in cooking meals and mix-ups with medications.
Many families often miss the signs and wait until it’s too late to get a plan in place for their aging loved ones. Fifty-five to 60 percent of Americans are unprepared for what they need in case of incapacity and death, says Kate Martin, an attorney at Englert, Leite & Martin, PL in Avalon Park.
“Without the plan in place beforehand, you are left with guardianship court proceedings that can be invasive, as well as expensive to undertake — all to simply be permitted to provide the care your parents require when they can no longer do this for themselves,” says Martin.
She says a great way to get the conversation on a sensitive situation flowing is to plan your own estate and discuss your decisions with your loved ones.
“Most families either avoid the topic all together because they do not want to be morbid or they think their parents will get upset,” she says.
Along with talking to your parents about planning for incapacity, Martin advises children to discuss future potential benefit planning and talk about how the parents wish for their legacy to continue after their death.
With the dialogue open on aging, it’s time to discuss the array of senior care solutions — adult day care, in-home care, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and more. The right choice is one that is tailored to your loved one’s needs and to the needs of your family.
One local option, Visiting Angels, serves East Orlando, downtown and Winter Park to provide home care, companion care and personal care services for seniors.
“People feel more comfortable in their own home. It’s a safe place to be for them,” says Robbie Robinson, director of marketing for Visiting Angels. “It’s where everyone deserves to be.”
The care takers spend four hours up to 24 hours a day with a client, providing everything from running errands and medication reminders to respite care for families.
“Our goal is to keep people in their own home to avoid having people go into a facility,” he says.
The Bridge at Orlando, located on Rouse Road and University Drive, offers countless resort-style amenities to help its senior residents age in place and do it with dignity, Robertson says. Residents are even allowed to bring their furry friends along, if the pets meet certain criteria.
“If residents start declining in age, we are designed to bring in outside sources,” she says. “We keep them here until end of life.”
Residents are treated to weekly outings and activities from summer barbecues to Bingo, and transportation is free to and from doctors’ appointments. The cost to reside at the facility varies depending on the size of apartment and level of care.
“The three biggest things we hear from people who tour the facility are that it looks clean, smells nice and the residents look happy,” says Robertson. “We can’t manufacture that.”
By Aimee Hoyt