You’ve had kids — or even if you haven’t — you have some idea of what it takes to care for an individual who can’t care for themselves. You feed them. You dress them. You wipe their butts. You cater to all their needs. When your parent, or dependent older relative, reaches a stage where he or she becomes that individual, life can get tough.
You spent decades depending on Mom and Dad, and now they’re depending on you as they age. Not only is that a mental wallop, it’s a logistical one, too, especially if you’re balancing a busy career and other obligations.
So, instead of spending your workday worrying about Mom falling down at home or setting the house on fire, and your Saturday worrying about what you didn’t get done last week in the office because you were so preoccupied with Mom, try to accept the fact that you both could use some help.
It might be time to seek out adult day care for the ‘rents — just don’t call it babysitting, because they’re not babies, and they still deserve your respect. Boston features many resources for quality care, whether it’s short term, live-in care or adult day health.
Knowing When It’s Time
The first step is identifying when an older person may need extra assistance in their day-to-day activities.
Michelle Brown, vice president of operations at MENTOR Adult Day Health says, “If a parent is dealing with physical health issues or a chronic illness, an adult day health program can be a great way for them to receive the support they need in a safe, fun environment.”
It may be as simple as needing diabetes management or as involved as requiring assistance bathing and using the restroom. When a parent’s physical or mental limitations become a burden on your own life, it could be time to look for help.
Brown notes that many adult day health centers will allow you and your loved one to visit in advance, have a meal at the center or participate in an activity. This can help test the waters to see if the environment is the right fit for your needs.
What to Look For
When selecting a facility, it’s important look for an environment that’s safe and one in which your loved one feels comfortable. Other important things to look for are transportation and meal plans, if those are things you need.
Some programs will offer home pick ups and/or transportation to appointments — another item that gets checked off your own to-do list.
Just don’t limit your considerations to medical services. Consider what a center’s social programming is like. What’s the male to female ratio, the median age range? What kind of activities are on the schedule, and would they interest your loved one?
Brown notes that the languages spoken on staff are also crucial for immigrant patients. Be sure to check if there’s someone at the facility who can speak to your loved one in their native tongue. “This can provide a strong sense of community,” says Brown.
Notice The Red Flags
Often you can read the vibe of a facility when you visit, that’s why a dry run is so crucial when making this decision.
“Red flags might include a lack of cleanliness or an unwelcoming physical environment,” says Brown. “You should also pay attention to whether participants and staff seem engaged.”
Scoping out the facility online is another way to see how it has served other patients. This might give insight into the strengths and weaknesses of services.
If you see someone you know at the facility during your visit, ask them for a recommendation about what works and what doesn’t about the organization, because then you’re getting both sides of the story.
Remember, you’re not in this alone.