Monday, April 15, 2013

My father needs more care than my mother can provide, what should we do?

By Bob Gregory

It’s not uncommon for an elderly couple to take care of one another in their “Golden Years” and often, one becomes the caregiver for the other.  This is generally the fulfillment of a promise made many years before in the form of vows.  But what happens when the caregiver is no longer capable of caring for their spouse?  This is a difficult time for your parents and you should monitor the situation closely.  Often, the couple is afraid they will be separated and for this reason, they hesitate to reach out for help, usually to their own detriment.  There are a few steps you can take to help your parents and yourself.

Old couple walking
Old couple walking (Photo credit: davekellam)
First, if one of your parents is the caregiver for the other, you need to have a candid conversation with both of them regarding their limitations to care for one another and the options available to them to keep them together.  Knowledge is power and it can also bring comfort and encouragement so this is a step you need to take before the caregiver can no longer care for the other.  There are options for your parents that will keep 
them together for a long time.  Depending on the type and amount of assistance the parent needs, a good option may be In Home Care.  Not all In Home Care is the same, so you will need to investigate which type of service will fit your parents’ needs.  Common types of In Home Care included:

  • Companion Services—provides recreational activities, visiting and supervision (adult sitting)
  • Personal Care—included toileting, bathing, dressing, eating and exercising.
  • Housekeeping/Homemaking—housekeeping, chores, meal preparation and shopping
  • Skilled Care—includes services that require a licensed healthcare professional for injections, wound treatment, physical or mental therapy.
In Home Care may be a great step to not only keep your parents together, but also keep them in their own home.

Second, you may want to consider an Assisted Living Facility for your parents.  Most facilities not only allow but encourage couples to stay together.  This will provide help for the parent who needs the help, activities appropriate for both, and a healthy living environment.  If memory issues exist, there are Assisted living Facilities that specialize or focus on Memory Assistance.  You should be able to find a facility that is appropriate if you do your research.  Some Assisted Living Facilities offer small apartments so your parents will have a similar environment to their own home but with help!
Old Couple
Old Couple (Photo credit: Up Your Ego)

Finally, or at least in my list, you may want to investigate Continuing Care Retirement Communities.  Continuing Care Retirement Communities offer a “tiered” approach to serving aging residents.  This type of facility will let your parents receive the appropriate level of care each may need at the same facility.  Many will allow the couple to continue to live together as long as the facility is capable of providing the appropriate care.  In the event the couple has to be separated, they will at least be in the same facility and be able to see each other as they like.

When one spouse is no longer capable of caring for the other, an overwhelming fear of separation may occur clouding good judgment.  The most important and reassuring thing you can do for your parents is to educate them on alternative professional care that will not only provide them with a higher level of care but will also allow them to continue living together.  If you get involved early enough and educate your parents, they will feel comfortable discussing their need for help as they become incapable of providing it for each other.  You should reassure your parents that the need for professional help is not a failure; it is a wise and loving decision.

If would like a list Independent Living Facilities, Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider
If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, please leave them in our comment section. We want to hear them. Helping people care for themselves or their loved ones is what we care about. 

We look forward to reading yours.

Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of At, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider

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