Are you thinking about caring for an aging loved one in your home? The best way to consider all that is involved in this major decision is to pose the right questions to the right people.
We reached out to top home caregiving experts nationwide and asked them to help frame the key questions that need to be asked before the boxes are packed. “Asking these questions ahead of time can help prevent confusion, misunderstandings, miscommunications and make the entire process go more smoothly,” says Amy Goyer, author of Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving, and AARP’s family and caregiving expert.
While no list of questions can be comprehensive — particularly during an ongoing pandemic — this represents an important start before embarking on a life-changing act that will deeply affect everyone involved. Perhaps the single most unasked question, according to Gary Powell, founder and executive director of The Caregiver Foundation, is: “Can I really do this?”
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Questions to ask yourself
No set of questions is more critical than those that you must pose to yourself before someone needing care moves into your home. “There are no simple answers,” says Pamela D. Wilson, a caregiving expert, advocate and speaker. But the questions need to be asked, she says. Among them:
- How long am I willing to be a caregiver?
- How will meals be handled, and by whom?
- How will they be cared for when I must leave the house for several hours?
- What specific boundaries am I setting before they move in?
- What exactly am I willing to give up — from family vacations to my children’s college funding to my own job — in exchange for this move?
- How will this impact my own financial, mental and physical well-being?
- How will this impact my marriage?
- How will this impact my retirement?
- Is my home a safe place for them to be? Or are modifications required?
- Will my family and I still have some privacy once they move in?
- Should I accept any money from my parents?
- Is this move really the best option?
- Will my parent thrive — or just survive — in my home?
Questions to ask the person who would be moving in
“If you think it’s even getting close to the time for your parent to move in, it probably is time,” says William Cohen, a certified senior adviser and founder of Cohen Caregiving Support Consultants. There are many key discussions to have. But tread lightly if your parent or loved one is mentally capable of answering the questions but reluctant to have these conversations, Wilson advises. Try to understand their concerns. Are they scared to make a change, or do they fear they will be a burden? Don’t make the leap until you can talk things through. Consider these questions:
- Is moving in with us a top choice for you? Are there other options you’d like to consider?
- Will you be comfortable with me (and my family, if appropriate) helping, supporting and caring for you in our home?
- What is most important to your quality of life — friends, faith, hobbies, something else?
- Will it be difficult for you if you are moving away from friends and what’s familiar? If so, how can we ensure you stay in touch and meet new people?
- Are you OK with and do you feel safe with our pet(s)?
- Are you willing/able to help pay for your care at my home?
- Will you agree to be honest with me if something is bothering you?
- Will you give me the legal ability to speak with your doctors, lawyer, accountant and financial adviser by creating powers of attorney?
- If we find this arrangement isn’t working out for either of us, how would you like to handle it?
- I know you may not always agree with the actions of my spouse and my children. Will you be able to hold back on being overtly critical of them?
Questions to ask your spouse
If your spouse or significant other is an unwilling partner in the caregiving arrangement, don’t do it, Wilson says. “A lot of divorces happen due to these in-law [caregiving] issues,” she says. But if they are willing, here are some important questions to explore:
- If we agree to take care of my parent, will we also agree to take care of yours?
- How will we divide up roles in caregiving for my parent?
- If you start getting frustrated or angry, how will you handle it? Are you open to counseling to help us through bumpy patches?
- If you change your mind — or it gets too hard — will you tell me and will you be open to getting help to come up with a solution?
Questions to ask children living at home
- Are you OK with grandma or grandpa living here? If not, what are your concerns?
- Are you willing to participate in their care? If so, to what extent?
- Are you OK knowing there may be less time — or less money — to do some things at times, like fewer or shorter family vacations?
- Do you understand that I may have less time to help you with homework or outside activities? How does that make you feel?
- What excites you about grandma or grandpa moving in?
Questions to ask your siblings
The key with your siblings is to keep them involved, engaged and up to date. Among the key questions to ask before the home care begins:
- Are you OK with our parent(s) moving into my home?
- Are you willing to help prepare them to live here?
- What specific role do you want to play in Mom/Dad’s home care? Are you willing to provide hands-on care or help with other tasks like finances, appointments or scheduling? If so, what would you consider and how often?
- Are you willing to help share the costs of care?
- Can you suggest things that will help keep Mom/Dad happier in my home?
- If we disagree on Mom/Dad’s care plan, are you willing to join me in getting help from a professional mediator or counselor to work out an agreement?
Questions to ask professionals
Keep in mind, most professionals won’t even be able to speak with you about your folks until you get your parents to sign Release of Information (ROI) documents. You also may want to seek health care and financial powers of attorney, so you can access information and help make key decisions for them.
- Does my parent have long-term care insurance. If so, what are the details?
- How can my parent set up powers of attorney for finances and health care advance directives?
- Does my parent have the money to help pay for living expenses and home care?
- Does my parent have any debt or financial complications I should know about?
- Is Medicaid an option?
- What home- and community-based services are available for them?
Physical Therapist or Aging-in-Place Specialist
- Will I need to make modifications to my home?
Too often, Powell says, the adult children make decisions for their parents based on what is perceived (or misperceived), and fail to factor in what Mom or Dad would prefer. That's why taking the time to ask — and get answers to — all these questions ahead of time is a gift to your parents and yourself.