What Are the Real Costs of Caring For Aging Parents?
Author: Lane Keating
It usually doesn’t happen all at once. Having to take care of an aging parent can sneak up on you. It might start with accompanying Mom to her doctor’s appointment. If you’re out, you might as well help her with her grocery shopping. Time marches on, one thing leads to another, and before you know it you’re going to her house every day and handling more and more of the everyday tasks. While you’re happy to help, you’re now taking time away from your own chores and responsibilities.
If you have a job you might find yourself running errands (yours and your mother’s) before work, after work, or on your lunch hour. A frantic call from Mom about any number of things could have you leaving work unexpectedly. Valuable and coveted vacation time or paid time off can quickly disappear when the doctor’s appointments start to pile up. Formerly understanding employers too often become impatient with your comings and goings. And, unfortunately, you begin to be perceived as unreliable. All the blood, sweat, and tears you gave to elevate yourself in your position are soon forgotten.
The financial toll is also underestimated. Parking fees at the doctor’s office or hospital, miscellaneous items that you pick up at the grocery or drug store, coffees, lunches, or snacks while you’re out pale in comparison to in-home care, assistive medical devices, doctor co-pays, and any other number of things that Mom may not be financially able to afford.
If you have children, they might not understand why you weren’t at their ballgame or swim meet or why they can’t have a friend over after school. The quality time you used to spend with them is now being spent taking care of your mother. Oh, and remember that vacation you had planned? Because you used all your time helping Mom, the vacation will have to wait until next year. Unfortunately, your kids grow faster than you think, and before you know it, they’re off to college and family vacations can become a thing of the past.
Your spouse or significant other may have started out being supportive but, with no end in sight, may be less than enthusiastic about the time and perhaps money being spent to help your mother. This type of strain can have a devastating effect on a relationship.
And what about you? Let’s face it, the job of caregiving most often falls to women. If you’re caring for an aging parent, while at the same time trying to raise children, excel at your job, manage your own household, and perhaps be a loving and supportive partner, your plate is full! There are only 24 hours in a day, and you’re booked for all 24. The days of pedicures and trashy novels at the beach are behind you.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the many aspects of caring for your aging parent, it might be time to be proactive in looking for an alternative living arrangement. There are wonderful communities available for independent living, assisted living, enhanced assisted living, and memory care. The levels of service vary widely as do the costs. I would be more than happy to talk with you about options that might work for you and your aging parent.
In the meantime, I would love to hear from you about the challenges you’re facing and how you’re coping with this very time consuming and emotionally charged commitment.