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PadreCare: The perennial Latino struggle: Should mami and papi go to a senior living home?

By Loida Casares

The topic is very touchy and in our case out of the question. It isn’t a conversation he even wants to have. Many grown children are going through the exact same thing when it comes to talking to their parents about a senior living home.

This coming June will be two years since my father moved in with me. Around a year ago, after one of his cardiology clinic visits, he broached the subject of going home with the Physician’s Assistant who had just examined him. He asked her if he could go home to his own house and she answered as gently as she could.

“No, I’m sorry, you can’t. Let your daughter take care of you,” she said.

He looked so sad and my heart broke for him. As much as he loves me and the kids and enjoys our company, he also longs for his own house with his own things. The truth is, he’s never going to live alone again. He’s going to live with me as long as he can and I hope that he’s with me until the very end. But the sad reality is that he could live a lot longer and he may become weaker and what will I do when he needs more care?

Kathryn Watson is the author of Help! My Parents are Aging and the founder of She is also a Life Coach and Speaker. Kathryn and her husband cared for her aging mother and then later her mother-in-law.

Watson’s advice is that in order to start the conversation we need to ask our parents what they think will happen next. Sometimes just asking them that simple question gets them to thinking. She said that a lot of people do not know that they have a lot of options when it comes to care and it doesn’t always have to involve a senior living home.

When I asked her about the common belief that senior living care is very expensive she said, “Some are costly but some are affordable, especially if someone has Veteran’s benefits.”

One of the options that she says that adult children can explore is home care for their elderly parent. This can be significantly less expensive than full time care in an assisted living home. She said that you can have someone come by your home to check on your parent twice a day to make sure they take their medicine, help them make the bed and any other services they may provide.

“Less is more,” Watson says. “The least amount of care that you can get away with and still be safe, the better off you’re going to be.” She advises that doing this will help stretch the dollar.

Choosing independent living for an elderly parent when they are still fairly strong is also a great transition into senior living and it can be a lot less expensive too. We talked about how strong my father still is and all that he does and she said that even at 91 he is still a good candidate for independent living because they have different levels of care. The basic care is a nice apartment and they would have someone check in on him daily to make sure that he takes his medication. There is also some basic housekeeping.

She makes sure to warn me that it’s the senior living home who will make that assessment and will decide the level of care that your parent needs. So even if you think your parent is still very strong and independent, and want independent living, the senior living home may choose assisted living.

One of the biggest hurdles that I have to jump with my father is that he still believes that senior living homes are like they used to be. He still thinks of them as “nursing homes.” He has no idea of all the levels of care that exist now and how nice some of these senior homes are.

There are communities that provide independent living, assisted living and even Alzheimer’s care. There are also residential care homes that provide a small “home” feel. These can be less expensive than the larger assisted living homes, depending on the care. I’ve seen one that is beautiful. It looks like a big ranch house with ten bedrooms with a huge yard and next to a pond with a walking track around it.

One of the things I’ve done is visited many senior living homes, from the big ones to the smaller residential care home. It’s good to become familiar with the different types of care that these homes can provide. You can do the same thing and then, when you’re both ready, take your parent out to visit them too.

Let them see for themselves how different senior living communities are in our day-and-age and show them that they aren’t all the nursing homes of yesterday. It’s a hard step to take but one that we all have to do in order to prepare for the day that your parent needs more care.

Loida Casares is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston with a BA in Journalism and an MA in Communication. She works in advertising by day and is a writer and blogger at night. She has been blogging at for ten years. Loida also blogged for, a national magazine for many years. She has read with Nuestra Palabra, Latinos Having Their Say several times and has appeared on their radio program on KTRU, Radio Pacifica.

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