Support for Your Aging Parent Around the Main Line
Many of us will need to help out parents as they get older. Discover local resources and caring professionals to help with your family's transitions.
One of life’s bittersweet journeys is the gradual role reversal of caring for our own aging parent. In the last few years, I have joined that demographic known as the sandwich generation. I am still deep in the midst of parenting a tween and a teen, while also very involved with the care of my mother. Even if your children are grown and on their own, and you’re not “sandwiched”, caring for an aging parent can be emotionally, mentally, and physically demanding.
As your parent ages, the decline may continually surprise you. This person who raised you, to whom you looked for answers and support, may become unable or unwilling to take care of their home or their own wellbeing. Deciding when to step in and take over some aspect of a parent’s life — finances or driving, for example — is no easy task. But long before you or your siblings need to take the car keys, you can find resources to support your parents, like meal services, house cleaning, or holistic wellness providers. Getting an older, independent-minded parent comfortable with accepting help, makes life easier — now and down the road.
Of course, every family has its own unique experience as loved ones get older. But there’s certainly comfort in knowing others have gone through this process in their own families. Within the Main Line Parent Community, there are many people faced with the care of an aging parent. Do a search and you’ll find helpful discussions in our Main Line Parent Community Facebook group. Based on those discussions and from my own experience, I’ve compiled some local resources and caring professionals, from meal services to senior living advisors, to help make the journey a little easier.
Eating Well: Nutrition for Your Aging Parent
Making sure your loved one is eating well and getting enough nutrition is a frequent concern for children of aging parents. If your parent struggles with trips to the grocery store, delivery is a simple solution. After COVID, almost every grocery store now has a grocery delivery service — a convenience that’s not just for seniors, either!
If hiring in-home help is not in the budget, try a meal kit subscription service. My mother always cooked for us when we were kids. But after becoming a widow and suffering numerous falls, fractures, and surgeries, she came to rely on frozen meals. In retrospect, we should’ve insisted on a meal prep service like HomeCooked, which offers fresh or frozen ready-to-cook dinners for delivery or curb-side pickup.
Help Around the Home
When aging parents begin having mobility or cognitive issues, they may stop taking care of essential day-to-day tasks. Having someone come in and help with specific tasks can simplify your loved one’s routine and keep the household running smoothly. Need help with laundry, light housekeeping, organizing, and running errands? You may find a home services business such as Elevated Lifestyle or Lessen the Loads can offer just the right amount of support to ease your parent’s burden.
A traditional housekeeper who comes every day or a couple times a week is another option if your family has the resources. Besides taking care of the household, a housekeeper provides company and a regular check in when you can’t be there. To find housekeeping services, you might start with Care.com, where you can search services by rate, reviews, and experience.
Wellness for Your Aging Parent
Two detrimental circumstances for aging parents (and everybody!) are isolation and inactivity. Older folks can have a lot of physical pain that keeps them sedentary, which often has a snowball effect. Lack of physical activity leads to muscle atrophy, weakness, more pain, and ultimately a loss of mobility. Help your parent remain as active as possible and engaged with other people. Regular gym classes may be too strenuous for seniors, but many gyms provide workouts that are tailored for seniors. Main Line Total Fitness in Haverford offers a Senior Fitness Program that helps “Agers” become “Super Agers” and make connections with others seniors. For a list of more senior fitness and social programs in the Main Line area, check out Eldernet.org’s list.
In additions to fitness, encourage your parent to try a more holistic approach to wellness. Core Clinic in Villanova provides integrative care for client’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. They address issues like chronic pain and health conditions with an array of holistic services. These include chiropractic care, massage therapy, nutritional counseling, acupuncture, regenerative treatments, functional medicine and more.
Downsizing and Preparing for a Move
We transitioned my mother into assisted living in 2023. Luckily for my siblings and I, my mother had downsized to a one-bedroom apartment over the years. Although we had to handle her move-out for her and it was a lot of work, we were grateful we weren’t dealing with her former, three-bedroom suburban home.
It’s a delicate situation, but talking with your aging parents about downsizing is a practical and sensible thing to do. Plus there are many professional organizers and clean out services around the Mail Line that can help you get the ball rolling like Carrie’s Essential Services and KS Organizing. Start small and take it one session at a time. These professionals will focus your efforts, work alongside you, and really get you results. Downsizing gradually over time with your loved ones is far less stressful than the pressure to empty a house after a health crisis! What’s more, the time spent together with your parents sorting through the attic can turn into a bonding trip down memory lane.
However, if your family finds itself with a hefty clean out or other large jobs, there’s Main Line Junk Removal.
Senior Living Residences
If and when the time comes to move your parent into a senior living residence, accepting the reality of the situation is the first hurdle. But then comes the bewildering process of actually finding a good place: the array of senior living options, availability, cost and financial assistance, quality of care, and more. Your choices will predominantly depend on the level of care needed. An aging parent with dementia or who needs a wheelchair will be limited to facilities with memory care and skilled nursing. Conversely, a still-active senior with little or no cognitive decline has a broader range of options. They include continuing care and independent living communities. When my siblings and I were seeking an assisted living residence for my mother, we found only one residence that felt like a fit, which also had availability at that time and could handle her higher level of care.
As you begin searching senior living facility, I think the most important factor is finding a residence that is close to you. Google searches and word-of-mouth recommendations may fall short, therefore, you may want to turn to professionals who work in the senior living industry. We secured a private room for my mother in a small, pleasant residence with caring staff through the help of an agent at A Place for Mom. The Main Line Parent Community recommends a number of other senior living advisors. Catherine Bohlin Twitmyer of Nextnestadvisors.com is said to be “wonderful” at working with people to find the right place to fit the needs of their loved ones. Other recommended advisors in our area include Senior Living Specialists Philly and Oasis Senior Advisors.
Words of Wisdom
Let’s face it, transitioning a loved one into senior living or long-term care is heart-wrenching, but ensuring their health and safety is top priority. To help with this major life transition, consider these guiding thoughts from members of the Main Line Parent Community.
- Be prepared for the tremendous cost of senior care.
- Get your loved one’s financials in order — any application will start there. Learn about power of attorney (health and financial) in case your loved one loses ability to sign off on such things.
- Do your research. For facilities that accept Medicaid, you can search online to see if there were any infractions or items requiring corrections related to patient care or building safety: https://sais.health.pa.gov/commonpoc/nhlocatorie.asp
- Don’t wait until the situation is dire before starting the process of looking for an assisted living residence.
- Visit as many senior living residences as possible, within your timeframe. Even those communities that are probably out of your budget range. Find out why some are more expensive and better rated, and get a sense of what’s available out there.
- Find a home where your parent can take their belongings and make the apartment feel as home as possible. Some homes even allow animals.
- Choose a community that is close to you. No matter how wonderful a place is, it is important to visit often and advocate for your loved one. Stay on top of what’s happening with your parent to make sure they are getting the care you expected for them.
Lead photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels.