August 20, 2010

By Casey Dowd

Published August 20, 2010 | FOXBusiness

Nearly two-thirds of people over age 65 will need long-term care at home, and while the conversation might not be pleasant, it's necessary.

Most of us boomers who are lucky enough to still have our parents dread the day when we realize we need to start taking care of them, as well.  No one likes losing their independence, but age takes its toll.

My wife’s mom suffered a stroke and was in a rehabilitation facility when my wife’s father unexpectedly passed away. My wife and her six siblings all chipped in and were able to keep their mom in her home with 24-hour care for over a year and for that they were all very grateful. However, due to her failing health and financial expenses, they had to put her in a nursing home.The pain my wife and her family went through during this time took a little bit of all of their hearts away.

How to Tell When Your Parents Need Help

But it was a necessary decision, and one that needs to be done right, both for financial and emotional reasons. Nearly two-thirds of people over age 65 will need long-term care at home, or care in an assisted living facility or nursing home, according to a recent study by financial company Genworth Financial. Not only are those our parents, they are also us. But it’s not an easy conversation to have.

“I would highly recommend that daughters and sons start the conversations sooner than later,” said Cathy Howard, a director at Griswold Special Care, a company that places in-home caregivers and services. “You can use this issue in conjunction with a larger discussion on updating wills, drafting powers of attorney. You can also talk about family members and friends who may be currently receiving care and focus on the success of that relationship.”

Too many people view the conversation as a decision made solely by the children. In fact, elder parents need to have a say, assuming they have their faculties. “Empowering them with that decision goes along way,” Howard said. “They feel that they haven't lost control. They are still the decision maker.”

It is an enormous financial decision, there is a big difference among the various types of care. A private nursing-home room runs on average $75,190 a year, up from $60,225 just five years ago, according to the Genworth study. But a home-health aide costs you $19 an hour, just slightly higher than the $17.50 of five years ago, according to the study.

It’s important to remember that it can be a gradual process, without the need to go from zero to nursing home in a matter of days. Often bringing in a home-health-care worker for just a few days a week can help make elder parents more comfortable relying on others for help. Howard said she has been in situations where she and the son or daughter of the parent sit down and discuss an arrangement of once or twice a week.

“We highlight some of the fun things they enjoy doing — if they enjoy cooking you know we highlight that,” she said. “Or if she enjoys going out to get her hair done, we talk about the opportunity to actually get in the car and go and do some fun things. And nine times out of 10 we can actually convince the older adult to accept these services on a short-term basis. How we leave it is, if you don't like it we can cancel.”

Because of the cost and the big change in family life that it causes, you should be very careful when evaluating the next step of an assisted-living facility or nursing home. A tour is a must, looking not only at the cleanliness of the facility, but also talking to children of the residents. Howard suggested asking about the ratio of residents to nurses and nursing assistants, and other staffing issues.

“I got a phone call just last week from a family who said they didn't have any nurses on staff over the weekend at this particular nursing home and we provided 24-hour, around-the-clock care at the nursing home for this particular patient because there was no nurse on staff in the entire facility,” she said

Also, you should evaluate the types of social programs they offer, and even the funding they get, Howard said.

Lastly, for your own sanity, remember that these decisions can be a shared responsibility.

“This is a very emotional time for children to see their parents lose their independence,” Howard said. “But they do need to remember that it is harder on the parents to lose their independence. Being proactive with discussions rather than waiting for an acute situation may prevent resentment and fear. Getting all family members on board will also reduce stress. Getting outside assistance from professionals, such as senior centers and certainly reputable home-care agencies may be one way to assist families with their very important goal in keeping mom and dad home.”

As published on the Fox News Network at


GRISWOLD SPECIAL CARE is the World's Oldest Multi-National Non-Medical Home Care Company. We refer Caregivers who provide personal care, homemaking, companionship, incidental transportation and other services to Clients wishing to remain safe, independent and healthy at home or the facility of their choice. For more information visit us on the web at