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What to Do When Dad and Mom Have Different Senior Living Care Needs

By APFM AdminJanuary 23, 2019
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Dad may be able to live independently but Mom may need assisted living or memory care. Living separately can put a strain on your parents’ relationship as well as their relationships with family members. What can you do to make the arrangement work?

Sharon Daily, LCSW-C, a social worker with Stella Maris in Maryland, speaks with us about the rationale behind different living arrangements for your parents — and how you can navigate the new situation.

Making Decisions About Dad and Mom’s Different Senior Living Care Needs

As much as your parents might like to continue living together, that may not be feasible if they have different care needs.

“As caregiving becomes more difficult in the home, alternative living arrangements are sometimes necessary for the safety of the couple,” affirms Daily.

Perhaps your parents won’t need to make a complete separation — a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) may have the resources available to meet each of their needs. But if that’s not the case, Dad and Mom may need to live apart. Financial resources, personal preferences and senior living community availability all play a role in determining the optimal living arrangements for your parents.

While it’s tempting to think staying together is always best, Daily believes there is no universal right or wrong answer when the needs of a couple are varied. The best choice for your family may be different from what’s right for another.

“Ultimately, it is your parents’ decision what type of living situation they want to pursue,” she says.

Ways to Handle a Senior Living Care Separation

If it becomes clear that a separate senior living care situation is needed, consider these tips to help keep your family intact:

  1. Arrange transportation. If Dad no longer drives, visiting Mom in senior living can be tricky — and you will get burned out if you’re the sole chauffeur. Instead, Daily recommends contacting your local Department of Aging to access senior transportation services.
  2. Create a schedule. Since you can’t be in two places at once, make a schedule so each parent has family or friends visiting on different days. Not only will this lighten your load, but it will also relieve some of the burdens from the parent living at home. This way says Daily, Dad can rest easier knowing that Mom is spending time with people who love her.
  3. Encourage self-care. Take time to look at the bright side of the situation: After months or even years of caregiving, living apart can provide a much-needed break for the healthier parent. “The caregiver now has an opportunity for respite and the ability to care for himself as he is also aging,” affirms Daily.
  4. Manage guilt. Rather than blaming yourself or others for your parents’ senior living separation, Daily suggests focusing on the fact that you and your family are doing the best you can in a complicated situation. “Be gentle and kind to yourself and your family members when managing the stressors of having parents in two different care environments.”

Though adjusting to a new living arrangement can be a challenge, it is possible to make it through with your family — and your sanity — intact.

“We cannot always change the circumstances as our parents age, but we can be helpful with shared decision-making, providing support and spending time,” says Daily.

About the Author

Robyn Tellefsen is a New York City-based freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience and hundreds of bylined articles. Her work has appeared on Chase, MSN, OurParents, Parent Society, SoFi, The CollegeBound Network and others.

How has your family coped with your parents’ different senior living care needs? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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APFM Admin