Are you facing tough decisions on caring for your parents?
When your parents reach the stage in their life that they need more care and assistance, their children can face some very difficult decisions. I have just faced the care home dilemma with my father.
When you first get involved in your parents affairs, it can be mind boggling – there’s the physical and emotional job of caring for your parent(s), the practical job of supporting them to run their lives and then there’s all the admin!
I’ve been privileged to act on behalf of several family members, so I now understand the process well. I wanted to offer others going through a similar process some tips and considerations.
The physical delivery of care
When my dad was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago I knew he would be unable to communicate his wishes as his dementia worsened. It was important for me to understand his wishes and to discuss them together.
We spent weeks running through different scenarios – what if x happened, how did he want to be treated? I looked at all his likely future care needs – wandering, inability to wash/dress/feed himself, incontinence, immobility etc. and discussed how we could mitigate each issue. We also discussed who he felt comfortable getting support from – for many he was happy to get family support but for washing, dressing and toileting he wanted caring professionals.
This set of conversations was incredibly hard to do at the time but has been totally invaluable to me in making decisions over the next eight years that I am certain are in line with what his “pre-dementia self” wanted.
The emotional consequences of delivering care
I wasn’t expecting eight years of care needs and it has been truly exhausting. It’s a strange kind of exhausting – not physical, mental or emotional but something else (probably all three) that is equally as draining. There is a real stamina required.
So much of your own life is impacted – a baseline anxiety when the phone rings unexpectedly, and your decision-making alters - you feel less comfortable going on holiday or taking a job with international travel.
I thought having a live-in carer would be the release that I needed – everything would be taken care of, but the reality was very different. My dad’s carer needed two hours off every day and one full day a week so then visits to my dad had to work around her time off schedule.
The practicalities of running their lives
The to-do list just kept on growing until I was fully running a second household with bills to pay, maintenance to schedule etc. As well as a second household, it truly felt like I had adopted another child – a toddler with complex needs for whom I had to do all the thinking – from booking regular appointments for hair, nails, eyes, ears and blood tests to scheduling a myriad of medical appointments for two types of cancer, heart issues, dementia and glaucoma.
There are many documents to consider, like the existence of a power of attorney or a will. There are many wishes to understand like advanced care planning or funeral arrangements. Then there is understanding how to fund care, then deciding when, where and by whom care should be delivered. And whether or when to sell a property to fund care.
All these decisions are complex and often have input from other family members which can increase their complexity. It can be overwhelming when you are trying to balance your loved one’s current situation with their desires and what is in their best interests – a conundrum that is often very difficult to resolve satisfactorily.
I am a Master’s qualified coach with a fascination in transitions. Becoming a carer and relinquishing care duties are life changing transitions for many. One of the services I offer is parental care coaching – this is really a hybrid of coaching and mentoring.
As well as acting as your thought partner as you wrestle with tough decisions, I can also offer advice and guidance on the topic as well. Also, I often find people take our coaching sessions as an opportunity to look at their own circumstances and consider the legacy they are leaving to their children.
If you are interested in finding out more, please do get in touch.