Your parents want the independence and privacy of being in their own house. They want food from their own kitchens, their own furnishings, and their own routines. Yet, the older they get, the more you’re finding that they are unable to complete the everyday tasks necessary to keep up with a house. Maybe you’ve discovered they’re having difficulty keeping up with yard care. Or maybe you’ve noticed more dirty dishes in the sink or dirty laundry in the hamper. You want them to be happy in their own home. Yet you may be worried that they aren’t able to keep up with the chores and tasks of living independently. So how do you balance their wants with their needs?
- An Honest Conversation
First, set up a quiet comfortable environment and have a simple conversation with them about how they are doing. Make sure they feel at ease talking about the topic, and try and ensure they don’t feel threatened, defensive, or sad. If they know you want to help them, but not control them, they might be more apt to talk about any issues they are having. Some parents also don’t want to feel like a burden, so if that is the case in your family, try and ease these feelings. Consider asking questions about specific household chores and tasks so that you can get an idea of your parents are handling these different responsibilities.
- Household Assessment
Try and do your own assessment of how the household tasks are being completed. Is there a lot of dirty laundry? Is the house getting a bit dusty more frequently? Has it been weeks since the hedges were clipped and the lawn was cut? Have they forgotten to pay a bill or write a check? These types of responsibilities seem like second nature to many of use – just the day to day tasks of running a home or a family. But to an aging parent, the responsibilities may be unintentionally forgotten or too physically demanding to do frequently.
- Covering the Basics
As you are assessing, take note of the basic areas where your parents may need extra help. Maybe they need some extra assistance with the cleaning and the laundry, and if that is the case, then consider a visit with them where you also spruce up the house periodically or you bring laundry back and forth when you visit. Or even consider hiring trustworthy help to periodically check in, clean up the house, and do the laundry.
If they need help with lawn care, reach out to family and see if you can set up a schedule where you can alternate taking care of the yard. Some times of the year, the yard will likely need more or different maintenance than others, but if you divide the work between family, it won’t seem like much extra. Or if you have the means, consider hiring a lawn service or a trustworthy neighbor to come by, cut the grass, and clean up the yard on a regular basis.
If your parents are forgetting to pay bills and send checks more frequently, consider setting up their bank account so that you can also sign. Then you can take over some of their bill paying so that payments will arrive on time and bills won’t be forgotten.
Lastly, if you’ve noticed that your parents have stopped cooking or making hot meals as frequently, then consider a program like Meals on Wheels <http://www.mowaa.org/about>. Meals on Wheels is the nation’s oldest and largest Senior nutrition community organization. Depending on your location, Meals on Wheels offers community meals and even delivery in some place to seniors who have limited mobility.
- Considering the Costs
As you begin to create your assistance plan, keep the costs in mind. If you are doing much of the work yourself, your costs may be low, but your time will need to be readjusted. If you are hiring out some help, then be sure to figure these costs into your parents’ budgets or your own budget. And if you have siblings or other family that is willing to help, then make sure you set up a plan for costs and payment.
- Periodic Reevaluation
Lastly, try and set up periodic opportunities to revaluate what help your parents might need. Maybe they only need help with the yard now, but in 6 months, they may need a little help with laundry. Ask them every so often how things are going, and make sure that they know you are there to help make things easier.
There are ways to balance both your parents’ desire to live independently, and meeting their household needs. Hopefully these tips will provide ideas for ways to start up a conversation about both comfort and assistance.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher.com. The site features hundreds of ways to stretch your day and your dollar. You’ll also find an active section for Baby Boomers.
Friday 20th of February 2015
You're absolutely right! Many people are making valuable contributions to their families well into their later years. Good for them and for their families!
Dr. Margaret Rutherford
Thursday 19th of February 2015
Some of my work Gary also stresses what an aging parent can give back to the family. I think the family can recognize what they still have to offer, even if some of the heavier or more labor-intensive duties can't be performed. Talking to a parent about how you value them... so important. Thanks for this advice.