Speaking as a third generation, only daughter and experienced Aging Life Care Professional™, I have many thoughts on an only child caring for aging parents. Perhaps being an only child propelled me to a career in Aging Life Care™ management.
I’m an Only Child. How do I Care for My Aging Parents?
by Suzanne Modigliani, LICSW, CMC — Aging Life Care Association™ Member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy
As a social worker with significant experience in geriatric mental health, home care, and nursing home consultation, I experienced the spectacular crash of my own parents. I knew just what to do, based on my professional experience, but emotionally it was so overwhelming. I know there are so many people just like me but don’t know where to turn or find support.
I was fortunate to live in the same metropolitan area as my parents. My mother suffered from many chronic physical illnesses and my father had dementia, though denied by mother. When my mother broke her hip and was sent to a local hospital, she sent my father home with a note, “Bring nightgown. Call Suzie.”
My father spent the next day calling Boston area hospitals looking for my mother. He finally landed in the social work office of a hospital where she was not a patient. Fortunately, a clever social worker located me. I picked him up and thus began the crisis phase of being an only child. My father could not be alone and my mother could not return to their home with stairs.
If you are an only child, you may have known many positives, specifically all that attention. And you know the negatives — all that attention. Now, you may be the only person paying attention to your parents as they age.
Hopefully, you’ve planned ahead and you are designated as health care proxy and Power of Attorney for each of your parents, or at least backup as they may wish to designate each other. This makes navigating the road ahead much easier.
One positive of being an only child is you may end up being the sole decision maker in many challenging situations. For instance, when I was complaining about breaking up my parents’ home of more than fifty years, my mother said, “You are lucky. If you had a sister you would be fighting over the china.”
Of course, most decisions are more difficult than what to do with the china. They run the gamut from arranging care at home to considerations of alternate care settings to complex medical decisions to financial planning. You may have extended family who can help, but things will always come back to you. You need to arrange support for yourself. That may be asking your spouse to take on extra tasks at home or arranging additional childcare.
Perhaps the best decision of all would be to hire an Aging Life Care Professional™. Whether you are a long-distance caregiver or busy with tasks closer to home, there is great value in having a knowledgeable adviser. Aging Life Care Professionals have encountered many situations like yours – from the simple to the extremely complicated. S/he will know the local resources and options, as well as have a good sense of what to look out for down the road. Aging Life Care Professionals are particularly important to only children as they are excellent sounding boards, voices of reason, and emotional support.
You can locate an Aging Life Care Professional near you by visiting the Find an Aging Life Care Expert search page.
About the author: Suzanne Modigliani, LICSW, CMC is an Aging Life Care Specialist™ in Brookline, MA who works with families to find solutions to complicated elder care problems. She has been a leader in the Aging Life Care Association and quoted extensively in the media as seen on her website modiglianigeriatrics.com.