My parents require 24 hour care, but we can't afford to hire someone. What should I do?

A fellow caregiver asked...

our mom & dad now require someone being with them 24/7.There's just me & my younger sister. She works every day & I'm a stay at home housewife. For the past 2 months, I've been staying with my parents during the day & my sister stays with them at night. I also do all of their house cleaning, washing their clothes & prepare 2 meals a day, plus I'm the one that takes them to their doctor appts. Now my sister is saying she can't go on much longer says she's not getting enough sleep at night to hold down her job. I guess she figures since I don't work, that I can stay with them both night & day. We can't afford to hire someone to help out. Please can you help me .

Expert Answer

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

Unfortunately, even the best, most well-meaning caregivers cannot provide adequate in-home care for chronically ill parents indefinitely. The quality of care will suffer, the caregivers will become overwhelmed or unable to maintain their other commitments, or there will be a crisis that cannot be managed because the caregivers energy and resources are depleted from constant caregiving.

Adult children often make mighty efforts, and are willing to forego their own lives and endanger their futures - but the strain usually will defeat their best efforts.

It is unfair of the parents to make this demand of their offspring, and devalues the value of their children's love and concern. Out of love and true concern, a solution must be found that is the best for everyone in the family, not just the parents.

If there is not enough money to fund paid caregivers, then care can be found in a nursing home that is reimbursed by Medicaid. That is what this federal program is for. It is not ideal. But it does allow for the adult children to have a life, to care for their own children, and to keep a job that will help fund their own old age.

Once physical needs are met by the staff of a nursing home, quality needs can be lovingly met by the adult children and other family members, friends, and neighbors. Remember that your parents are not likely to improve; most chronic illnesses worsen with time. This means that providing care will become more difficult, even as your energy and patience gets lower and lower. Caregiving is exhausting, both mentally and physically.

You and your sister are your parents best assets. Take care to preserve their assets. Believe it or not, you will not always be there: caregivers who are over taxed are at higher risk for accidents, falls, illness, depression, and other forms of burnout. If you are too tired, who will cope with the next emergency? The responsible thing is to find a solution for the routine care you and your sister are providing now, so that you can provide the quality of life care that makes life worth living, and still have the energy to cope with the next crisis, and the one after that, and the one after that. Take care of yourself.