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Treasure Digest: Turning the Hearts . . . Caring for Your Elderly Parents, Part 5

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Treasure Digest

Turning the Hearts . . . Caring for Your Elderly Parents, Part 5

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In part 4 we discussed caring for elderly parents whose health permits them to continue to stay in their own home with assistance. But what about when they are no longer able to cope on their own?

The transition from their own dwelling to possibly a nursing home may be made easier by bringing them into the child's home for a short period of time. Thinking of a nursing home may be repulsive to both the aged parent and the child. "The decision to institutionalize a loved one is among the most difficult anyone is ever required to make" (Earl and Sharon Grollman, Caring for Your Aged Parents, 1978, page 110). More recently, assisted-living facilities have become another option, offering various services to allow residents to maintain a level of independence.

If it becomes necessary, the child ought to be prepared for a lot of self-pity on the part of the parent. To the parent it can seem like rejection. However, a visit to some nursing homes may prove to him or her that they are not all cold and impersonal. Before making the move, be sure to learn more about the aged parent's financial situation. Have an attorney or accountant prepare a complete inventory of assets. Then check what the government will supply. (In the United States, Medicare, Medicaid and Supplementary Security Income are some sources. The local Social Security office may supply more information.)

When searching for a good nursing home, get recommendations from doctors, ministers, social workers, senior citizens' groups, the Social Security office, friends and relatives. Check your state Department of Health for inspection results and complaints. Caregiver to resident ratio is very important. There are two basic types of nursing homes: "Skilled Nursing Facility (SNFs), twenty-four-hour nursing service for 'convalescent' patients who require constant medical supervision. Intermediate Care Facility (ICFs), less intensive medical care than that offered by SNFs, with a greater emphasis on social and rehabilitative services. Some institutions offer both levels of care" (Grollman, page 121).

Unexpected visits at mealtime and activity periods will help reveal the atmosphere of a nursing home. How do the people look? Contented and well-groomed? Talk with the administrator, head nurse and social worker. Do the nurses seem to know the names of the residents? Talk to the residents themselves. Be careful that you look the facility over well. Bring your parent along to see it and to become familiar with it before admission. On admission day, stay several hours to help him or her settle in.

Once our parent is in the home, we must be careful not to neglect him or her, but to continue caring by letters, calls, visits and by taking him or her out for special events. Jesus Christ praised those who would visit and help the infirmed. He said that it was as if we did it for Him (Matthew 25:35-40 Matthew 25:35-40 [35] For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: [36] Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. [37] Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? [38] When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? [39] Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? [40] And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.
American King James Version×
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Whether your aging parents go into a nursing home or live out their lives with you or remain in their own dwelling, caring and loving must always be a part of their treatment. Listening, being patient, praising them, sharing with them and loving them will do much to make their last years of this physical life more enjoyable. Tell them often how much you appreciate them and what they did for you.

"Finding answers for your parents and for yourself is a long, painful process. There are probably no solutions that will satisfy everyone involved. You can, however, choose the best one. It will be worth the effort" (Grollman, page 22).

As Christians, let's make sure that however, whenever, whatever—we treat our aged parents in a loving manner that truly brightens their last years and glorifies our Father in heaven.