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Weigh options to find the best care for aging parents

When Karen's active 70-year-old mother slipped in the shower, she broke her wrist and now has a difficult time cooking dinner and doing daily chores. John's father, who just turned 85, mistakenly took the wrong medication and had to be hospitalized. And Jena's octogenarian mom left the stove on overnight three times in one week.

The adult children in each of these three families face a question that is challenging more

Americans every day: how to take care of aging parents when they cannot care for themselves?

As these situations show, the answer to that question depends on the specific needs of the individual parent. For instance, Karen's mother only wants short-term assistance until her wrist heals, so an in-home caregiver might be best. The parents of John and Jena, however, require more medical attention and evaluations, so ultimately, they need live-in care.

Fortunately today, families have numerous options to choose from when it comes to caring for older relatives – yet having all those choices can also make it difficult to decide on the best one. A good place to start, therefore, is to take a clear-cut look at the situation to define primary caregiving goals for an aging loved one. While finances -- as well as emotional or spiritual needs

-- should be taken into consideration, the senior's medical condition and cognitive abilities are the two major factors that shape decisions about finding good care.

Even an ideal caregiving scenario, however, may not appeal to aging parents who often resist spending money on themselves or making changes to their living situations. In those cases, adult children may have to use a little "therapeutic lying" to make their case. For instance, rather than use the term "caregiver," an aging parent living alone might be advised to get a new "housemate" who could provide medication reminders and cook meals. Or a widowed father could be more open to having a family friend stop by each week to drop off groceries and visit, if he does not know that the "friend" is actually a trained caregiver who can monitor the dad's needs.

To simplify the process of finding care for an aging parent, here is a brief overview of some common options:

* In-home care: The idea of "aging in place," where aging parents remain in their own homes (or move in with their children), is increasingly recognized as one of the optimal choices for seniors who may need some assistance but not full-blown medical care. According to an AARP survey, 89 percent of seniors want to age in their homes for as long as possible.

Typically, in-home caregivers can provide meals, personal care assistance, medication reminders, housekeeping services, and companionship as well as transportation to appointments and other activities. Potential in-home caregivers should be evaluated as to whether they make a good "fit" with the senior and should also provide proof of being bonded.

* Assisted living facilities: At a certain point, it may make sense for older adults to move into a setting where their health can be monitored and they can receive assistance with tasks like toileting and dressing. While seniors may also enjoy social interactions, they do not get the one-on-one attention provided through in-home care. Assisted living situations may also be referred to by dozens of other names, such

as "board and care," "congregate care," or "personal care."

* Residential care: Typically, residential care facilities are open to adults with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. It may not be the best choice for reasonably healthy seniors.

For further information, check with the U.S. Administration on Aging,

John Muir Senior Services or the

index.aspx?NID=2533 Contra Costa Area Agency on Aging.

On Wednesday, Nov. 30 the Danville Chamber of Commerce will host a presentation by Jesse Walters titled "What Are Our Options for Caring for Our Aging Loved Ones?" For more information or to sign up for the seminar call 820-8390.

Jesse Walters is the Client Care Manager for Home Care Assistance Danville. Walters has worked extensively with geriatric care managers, elder law attorneys and has specific expertise in Medicare reimbursement and hospice care. He is a member of the Professional Fiduciary Association of California.

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