Tips for caring for your aging parents — when you are a single mom

single mom sandwich generation

Patrice is a smart, hardworking single mom with limited involvement from the father of her two elementary-school-aged kids. She works full time as support staff at a logistics firm, while she runs a tight ship she consistently feels like she has her hands full. Then suddenly, her 67-year-old mom, who lives two hours away, experienced a quick downturn in her health — her diabetes was poorly managed, her arthritis had already meant she had trouble running errands on her own. Patrice knew she had to keep a close eye on her mom.

Over the holidays, Patrice spent a few days with her mom — also a single mother — and had to face the facts. Walking was clearly very painful, and Patrice’s mother asked — shyly — if Patrice could help her with a long list of errands and household tasks that she was unable to do herself. Patrice felt obligated to help her mom in whatever way she could.

“I tried to visit my mom at least once per week, but I finally had to face the fact that she needed more care,” Patrice said. “Even if we could afford a nursing home, my mom is a stubborn broad — there is no way she would leave the house she’s lived in for 30 years.” Patrice knew her mom wanted to age at home and maintain her independence but needed more hands-on care, she started thinking about whether or not she could afford it with her mom before making a decision.

Between caring for her kids, working fulltime, and trying to maintain a healthy life of her own, Patrice was stressed and burned out. “I love my mom and not only feel obliged to help her — I want to. But I also have to take care of my kids and myself,” she told me. She’d try to talk to her mom about moving to a nursing home, or find other care, but they would bicker about it, which only caused more stress. It became clear Patrice’s mom wanted to stay in the comfort of her home and receive the help she needed.

Finally, a few weeks ago, the situation came to a head. Patrice received a call at work that her mom’s pipes had burst in the cold, and she was overwhelmed trying to find a plumber. That same day, the school called to tell her to pick up her 8-year-old, who had a fever and headache.

“I just couldn’t do it all,” Patrice said.

Patrice researched her options, and hired a personal home care provider, using the site Care.com. The home care provider, Annie, comes four times each week to visit her mom. During these visits, she helps her mom with shopping, doctor’s appointments. meal preparation, they go shopping, run errands, and does basic home cleaning, as well as helps her bathe.

“This has been the best decision that I have made — I only wish I hired someone through Care.com sooner,” Patrice says. She goes on to say that simply knowing that Annie is on-call frees not only her time, but her headspace and stress level, which Patrice says she can now use to build her career and family. “I actually have more energy to help my mom now,” Patrice says. “We have a much smoother relationship because our time is now focused on enjoying each other, and not arguing about how to take care of my mom. Ironically, my mom is now more open to asking me for help when she needs it for bigger issues — because she feels more supported and cared for on a daily basis.”

Have you found yourself in this situation? Take a deep breath, here is what you can do to find senior care for your loved one.

How to find senior home care

There are two ways to hire a home care aide or care provider. One is through an agency, the other is to hire directly.

Pros of hiring an in-home senior care placement agency

  • They do the work. The agency will screen candidates, do the paperwork, some basic training and cast a wide net to find qualified candidates.
  • If one hire falls through, or cannot make their shift, the agency will have backups.

Cons of hiring through an in-home senior care placement agency

  • More expensive
  • Can feel impersonal, since they select a handful of candidates for you to consider.
  • Can be inconsistent, as agencies sometimes rotate in aides, which can make it hard to maintain the quality of care and bond with the caregiver.
  • Not all rural areas are served by agencies.

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The other option is to hire in-home senior care directly. Some people find home care aides and providers through recommendations from friends. A popular way to search for help is using Care.com, the largest online marketplace for finding and managing care. Care.com has thousands of caregiver profiles in the United States, and around the world. Beyond its size, Care.com has an A- rating from the Better Business Bureau (which is important to me), and was founded by an awesome female CEO (also important to me!).

Caregiver profiles include photos, reviews from past clients, education level, services offered and some limited verifications – you also have the option to request a background check on providers anytime as a Care.com Premium member.  If you sign up for Care.com, you’ll get 20% off Premium Membership.

 

Pros of directly hiring a private in-home senior care help

  • Less expensive.
  • You are in control by taking a third-party out of the equation
  • Ability to interview candidates directly, to see if there is a personal connection or preference

Cons of directly hiring a private in-home senior care help

  • Some people find it to be more work to find, vet and hire a care worker
  • No real recourse if someone doesn’t show up for work.

This is how Care.com works to find senior care:

  1. Go to Care.com
  2. Create an account, and fill in your needs.
  3. Browse caregivers based on your location, needs, and budget.
  4. Reach out to potential candidates within Care.com to screen for the right fit.
  5. Set up appointments to meet with and interview caregivers. Here are some tips on how to interview a senior caregiver.
  6. Screen finalists via the background check services for a fee (some caregivers pay for this service themselves, and can share their certified criminal records and DMV histories at no additional cost you).
  7. Call candidates’ references.
  8. Make an offer, and hire!
  9. You can pay within the Care.com website, which can be very helpful for tax records, sharing information with relatives and keeping track of the relationship.

How to pay for senior home care

On Care.com, senior home care fees start at around $12 per hour and depend on your location, the person’s level of experience and education. The great thing about Care.com is you can find and manage your care options in-platform.

For example, if you hired senior care home aide on Care.com, you have the option to also pay the home aide directly on Care.com, add notes for the care plan, message them in-platform and join discussion groups with other families, including those who live nearby and can offer local advice on caregivers and services.

Depending on your income, there may be local services that can offer some of these services, and sometimes Medicaid covers the cost.  Here is a state-by-state guide to Medicaid home care benefits.

Most states have non-Medicaid programs to help seniors living at home.

Here is a state-by-state guide to home care financial assistance programs.

Reach out to specialized organizations, such as your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, your parent’s medical providers or local social services agencies to see about area resources.

The Department of Veteran Affairs has services for seniors, including help paying for and providing in-home care.

Here is a list of VA services for the elderly.

Other options for financing in-home senior care include:

How to manage the guilt and stress of caring for your aging parent

Caring for an unwell loved one is a very stressful and emotionally complex time for anyone. You’ll be full of a lot of seemingly contradicting emotions throughout the process: love, guilt, anger, and confusion. The key ishttps://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/convert-term-life-insurance-whole-life/ to accept all of your feelings as normal, human, and complicated. Just remember breathe.

To manage the emotional part of this process, check out these books and resource links:

Care.com Senior Care Index

Seniorcare Interviewing Tips with Care.com

Tips for managing your aging parents care:

  • Get on the same page as the other loved ones in the person’s life. Whether it is your parent’s romantic partner, your siblings, your parent’s siblings or others who care most about your mom or dad, involve them in the process as much as makes sense. This takes the burden off of you both logistically and emotionally. Create a team on which you can rely for physical help, as well as to turn to when things get stressful or emotional.
  • Often, caretaking creates friction in families. Be proactive in seeking outside support to work through these differences. This might be a neutral, respected family friend, clergy person, or professional who specializes in senior care, who is familiar with this brand of family conflict.
  • If other family members are not as helpful as you’d hope they would be, find ways to let that anger go. Control what you can, which may be only your reaction to the situation.
  • Never sacrifice your own financial stability for your parent. The best gift you can give your children is financial security — both now and in your own later years.
  • Involve your children. It can be easy to feel like you are compromising your kids’ care for the sake of your parent. This can be true, but it doesn’t always have to be. Let your children see you caring for their grandparent. Let that be an example to teach them about family, serving those who need it, being loving and caring. Even very young children can help their elders, through spending time with them, and household chores. Older children can sit with the older relative, run errands, and teenagers can drive them to appointments.
  • Seek out emotional support. Group therapy with others in similar situations can be life-saving. If you have close friends nearby, make regular dates with them- even if you don’t discuss your family situation. Girls nights are therapy!
  • Take care of your own physical and mental health first. You cannot be of service to others when your own cup is empty.  

Sign up with Care.com and get 20% off Premium Membership; start searching for affordable senior care today, join a support group through Care.com community and manage care in-platform.

Related posts on managing time and money for single moms:

How to run a single mom household like a boss

49 things single mom should do instead of laundry 

 

 


Some of the links in this and other posts generate a commission. I never recommend products that I don’t truly believe in. Seriously – I get asked to write about stuff all the time and turn down hard cash if I’m not feeling it.

Care.com has an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau.

 

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Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list. Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

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