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Tips for Caring for Your Aging Parents

Scenario: Maximum Assistance

Della McCann had cared for her father until his death and expected she'd do the same for her mother, Wendy BowKwong, who was living with Della, her husband, and their two kids. "In Chinese culture it's normal for the generations to be together," says Della, who resides in Mamaroneck, New York. In the years that followed she nursed Wendy through a heart attack, depression, and colon cancer, all while her children were tweens. But when Wendy developed dementia and her behavior became erratic, Della felt she couldn't care for her at home.

The Solution Della enrolled Wendy in an adult daycare program, but the center couldn't handle her, so the doctor recommended a nursing home. "At first I resisted, and I cried a lot," Della recalls. "I'm an only child, and I was brought up to believe that you didn't have someone else take over your parents' care. It just isn't done. But I worried about my mother's safety, and about the effects of caring for her on my family."

Costs A nursing home room is about $5,500 to $6,500 per month. In Wendy's case, with her savings exhausted, Medicaid is now covering the fees, as it does for 70 percent of nursing home patients.

Key to Success Della makes the 10-minute trip daily to visit her mother. "You need to be involved with your parent's nursing home the same way you are with your kid's school," she says. "I'm my mother's advocate. Also, people should talk to others in the same situation, and if that doesn't help, get therapy. There's so much guilt associated with these decisions. The worst day of my life was when I told my mother she should go into the nursing home. But my relationship with her got so much better once she settled in. It's such a loving place. We even had my daughter's wedding there so my mom could share it."