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Would you take care of an elderly parent you had never met?

Updated: Jun 21, 2019


[By Jennie Griggs]


Imagine, if you received a phone call one day from a stranger living in a faraway state, telling you that you had a mother, whom you also didn’t know, who needed your help.

And, it was not just a little help. It was a place to live and someone to care for her. And, in addition, she will be arriving on an airplane in only a week. Can you pick her up she arrives at 5:30 am next Sunday?


How would you react?


Recently, I had the honor to witness an adult son and his wife reveal their Christian faith in action. My newfound passion led me to this beautiful and inspirational story demonstrating how religion, in this case, Christianity and its belief system, can play a role in the solution to the “aging tsunami” we are facing in the United States.


What must we take into consideration?


Fact: We know that 3% of adults live to be 100 now, so when we think of caregiving, we must consider the number of years they will need to be cared for. Who is going to be the caregiver? Where are they to go? How will they survive?


Fact: 85% of Baby boomers want to age in their homes. Nevertheless, there are various circumstances including finances, poor health, and unpredictable states of well-being that prevent them from continuing to live at a home they once knew. This predicament further supports the importance of Homecare and the necessity of policy and housing adaptations to assist this cohort to “Age in Place.”


However, what happens if there is no home? What happens if the subject is financially at the poverty level and still doesn’t qualify for Medicaid in the state where they are living? It is important to realize that most Americans are unprepared for retirement. The wealthy represent only 20 % of the aging population. The poverty threshold for two people is $16,240; the average social security benefit is $27,120, and the Federal minimum wage is $ 30,160. Social security payments are less than the minimum wage. What will happen to those with limited funds?


Fact: Housing options are pricey and not affordable to many.

Independent living facilities costs are dependent on the specific type of independent living facility. It can be a multifamily senior complex house condo or apartment. For instance, a local multifamily that provides a range of meals and services may be as little as $2,500 or $30,000 a year for a small apt, but with amenities it may be higher than $10,000 monthly ($120,000 annually).

  • CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities): Entry fees to the community may be contracted upon entrance to serving as their home throughout their life course. The fees may be refundable plus monthly service fees treated as a condo rental or endowment and may range from 100K or more, with monthly fees range between two to four thousand dollars. The residency agreements are complicated and may be extensive including long-term care of fee- for service. The prices vary widely with communities as well as the size of the independent unit selected. Various care services are available but at additional costs.

  • Assisted Living Facilities: Most assisted living services are private pay running between $50 to $200 a day including meals and limited services. Additional services are billed-for-fee with monthly totals ranging from $6,000 up or $72,000 plus a year.

  • Skilled Care/Rehabilitation facilities: Insurance does not last forever in these medical facilities. Often long-term care residents must fund their stays from private sources. Median room cost per day is $300 not including all services. Medicare pays for 100% of the first 20 days and co-pays for up to 100 days. After that a move is required or you the cost is on you.

  • Congregate senior housing (group homes). They may offer Independent, assisted or dementia-friendly environments. Group homes have gained popularity today because they are smaller communities. The typically home is a single dwelling, or a small cluster of 6-10 residences. They can offer comfortable atmospheres with chefs and one on one specialized care. Costs would most likely be at minimum $6,000 monthly, and all-inclusive, totaling approximately $72,000 a year.


Fact: The median worth of persons between 55 and 64 who have retirement accounts is about $120,000. The average boomer only has $240K to their name including their house as an asset. Do you know how fast that money disappears? What happens when families do not know one another or have been separated across state lines for years? What happens if you do not even know that parent, just like the couple in the story.

Thankfully, there is grace. The couple in this story exuded the ethical underpinnings of the true meaning of family caregiving and unconditional love. They took the unknown mother into their modest and loving two-bedroom townhome living on a tight budget themselves. They did so knowing there was no way to measure the unknown financial, and emotional stress that would come along with their decision. There was room at the inn. Sound familiar? When asked why one would take in someone she does not even know, the daughter-in-law replied, “It is simple, we are believers, and we try to live by the scripture and the commandment which tells us to honor thy father and mother.” What a testimony.


Fact: Religious doctrine teaches us to honor and respect our mother and father.

  • The 5th commandment in the Hebrew Bible: “Honor thy Father and Mother.”

  • The Quran: “Whether one or more attains old age in their life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor.”

  • Hindus: “Serve your parents, especially in their old age.”

  • Buddhism: “Respect your aging parents.”


Yes, there is goodness among us. We are taught in all religions to honor and respect our parents. This young couple exemplified both commands in their selfless decision. What would you do?


By Jennie Selden Griggs, M.A.,

Aging Studies

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