By Mina Williams Herald writer
More Americans are living into their 80s and 90s. As such, many adult children are finding themselves balancing roles as caregivers for aging parents while keeping up with the demands of work and their own children.
“It’s not easy, kids taking care of parents,” said Dominick, a 60-year-old son caring for his widowed 91-year-old mother in Edmonds. He declined to give his last name to protect his mother’s anonymity. “It tears your guts out. A parent is supposed to take care of the kids. Not the other way around.”
His wife passed away 22 months ago and his son plans to move out of state. Dominick finds it stressful handling his mother’s affairs and conflicted with his decision to not move into her home.
He finds himself asking a common question: What to do with mom?
When to move out
“As we get older we just need more help,” said Dwayne Clark, chief executive officer of Redmond-based Aegis Living. “Signs that an elder might need assistance are if they are not eating or have a hard time managing medications.”
An elder care adviser can be a good partner when researching options. They can help open up conversations and avoid conflict, according to Les Ostermeier, an elder care adviser for Choice Advisory Services, Mill Creek. “We operate as matchmakers and help people explore their options.”
The adviser’s fee typically is covered by the provider selected.
Engaging everyone in the plan is a good idea, said Dale Kiesz, owner of Homewatch Caregivers. The Mountlake Terrace company arranges home health care services.
And do it sooner rather than later.
“It’s less stressful when the person’s wishes and thoughts have been clarified,” he said. “People are ushered out of hospitals quickly, not long before families have to decide on a nursing home or rehab center.”
Aging in place
Often a person can extend living in their own home with some modifications to their kitchen or bathroom. That is why Edmonds-based Chermak Construction has added an “Aging In Place” segment to its business.
“Some people can’t sell their house, or they love the neighborhood,” said Judy Chermak, co-owner.
The firm recently added a lift chair to the home of Ken and Kay McClain, of Redmond, so that Kay could get to her beloved sewing room on the lower level. A bathroom was overhauled, adding a walk-in shower and safety bars.
“We wanted to stay where we are as long as we can,” said Ken McClain. He is 82; she is 79. “We asked a real estate agent if the modifications would limit our home’s marketability and she said the changes would be more attractive to potential buyers.”
For those requiring skilled care there are several options.
Dominick relied on home health care following his mother’s stroke six years ago at the recommendation of a Swedish/Edmonds case worker following a three-day hospital stay. Staying in her home was paramount.
“She is very independent,” he said. “Sometimes she can’t remember to take her pills. Then she gets sick and I get the nurses set up.”
Services can range from a few hours a week to 24/7 care.
Adult family homes offer a homey environment. That option suits seniors as they transition from their own homes into a place where 24-hour assistance is provided.
“Safety issues are the number one reason our people move into our homes,” said Bernard Fajarillo, co-owner of A Kind Heart, which has two locations in Edmonds and one in Lynnwood.
When her mother required more help than her retirement community could provide, Kathie Beach, of Edmonds, opted for an adult family home because of the individual attention her mom could receive.
Many elders do not recognize when independence slips away. Struggling to button a shirt, change bed linens and make dinner just sneaks up. For those seniors, retirement and assisted living facilities may be an option.
Families want to make sure they find the right fit the first time. Families are urged to also ask how they will meet new, increasing needs.
“It’s hard to move parents, taking them out of everything they are familiar with,” Chermak said. She experienced caring for her own mother and was forced to move her twice to secure care as her needs changed. “There is no handbook for these decisions. It has taught me to get out of my home before there is a catastrophe and before my options run out.”
Time for help?
Signs a senior may need more help than you can give:
• Falling, injuries
• Unable to tend to hygiene
• Things in the house that are not as they should be, such as an unmade bed or untidy house
• Subtle forgetfulness
• Difficulty in finding words
• Questionable diet
Information all elder caregivers should have access to:
• List of prescriptions and medications with dosages
• Medical power of attorney
• Durable medical power of attorney
• Living will, physical order for life-sustaining treatment
• Location of legal and financial papers; consider a dual signature of safe deposit boxes and bank accounts
• Names and phone numbers of people to call in case of emergency (care team, minister, friends, attorney and doctors)
Sources: Dwayne Clark, Aegis Living; Dale Kiesz, Homewatch Caregivers