Dear Dr. Archer,
Should I feel overwhelmed and worried about my parents getting older? I'm an only child. I feel like I have so much responsibility, with no help.
They are both doing well health-wise, but as they get older and need more assistance with basic needs, should I put them in a nursing home so I wouldn't have so much responsibility since I am an only child? If I could get a little psychological guidance, I would truly appreciate it. Thanks.
While you have a valid concern, keep something in mind. You have a freedom that multiple siblings do not enjoy: you alone will be responsible for your parents' health care and housing decisions. As an example, look at the letter from Pansy, "My Siblings Won't Help Take Care Of Our Elderly Mom".
Many siblings are torn apart, even to the point of not speaking to each other, during the last year(s) of their parents' lives due to disagreements, when in fact they should unite together.
As an only child, you will most likely rely on outside help -- friends, church members, extended family and/or hired help. If your parents had insurance, the cost may be supplemented by that or perhaps by medicare or medicaid. You'll need to review what their insurance covers.
Presently, if they are in the home they've been in for years, they may be open to the idea of a small apartment. There are even apartments that cater to the elderly who can still get around on their own, but there's a nurse on the premises. This could be a good transition option.
Of course, there may come a time when a nursing home might be your only option. Sometimes we just can't do it alone, and this would be a viable solution. I invite you to read the letter I received, "How Do I Tell Mom She Cannot Go Back Home?"
Of course, if they're doing fine right now, it gives you time to look into options so you can plan ahead.
This is never an easy subject, Keri, whether you're an only child or one of ten. It's not easy to think of our parents as being unable to care for themselves, but most of us have to come to terms with it eventually.
Check into their insurance and what it covers; lay groundwork with sitters or nurses to find out if insurance covers that if the parents remain in their own home. That way, when the time comes, you'll be prepared, which will make the process go more smoothly.