December 27, 2022
estimated reading time 7 minutes
Caring for your aging parents is something you hope you can handle when the time comes, but rarely is it something that is planned for. Whether the time is now or somewhere in the future, there are steps that you can take now to make your life (and your parents’) a little easier. Some people live their entire lives with little or no assistance from family and friends, but today Americans live longer than ever. It’s always better to be prepared.
The key takeaways from this blog:
Mom? Dad? We need to talk. Find out what their needs and wishes are. In some cases, however, they may be unwilling or unable to discuss their future. This can happen for many reasons, such as incapacity, fear of becoming dependent, resentment toward you for interfering, or reluctance to burden you with their problems.
If this is the case with your parents, you may need to do as much planning as you can without them. However, if their safety or health is in danger, you may need to step in as a caregiver. The bottom line is that you need to have a plan. If you’re nervous about talking to your parents, list topics you need to discuss. That way, you’ll be less likely to forget anything.
Here are a few key topics you should be prepared to cover . 1) Long-term care insurance: Do they have it? If not, should they buy it? 2) Living arrangements: Can they still live alone, or is it time to explore other options? 3)Medical care decisions: What are their wishes, and who will carry them out? 4) Financial planning: How can you protect their assets? 5) Estate planning: Do they have the necessary documents (e.g., wills, trusts)? 6) Expectations: What do you expect from your parents, and what do they expect from you?
Once you’ve opened the lines of communication, your next step is to prepare a personal data record. This document lists the information you might need in case your parents become incapacitated or die. Here’s some information that should be included:
Be sure to write down the location of documents and any relevant account numbers. It’s a good idea to make copies of all the documents you’ve gathered and keep them safe. This is especially important if you live far away because you’ll want the information readily available in an emergency.
If your parents are like many older folks, where they live will depend on how healthy they are. As your parents grow older, their health may deteriorate so much that they can no longer live independently. You may need to find them in-home health care or health care within a retirement community or nursing home. Or, you may insist that they come to live with you. Moving in with you may be the best (or only) option if money is an issue. Still, you’ll want to consider this decision seriously. This decision will impact your entire family, so talk about it as a family first. A lot of help is out there, including friends and extended family. Don’t be afraid to ask.
If you’re concerned about your parent’s mental or physical capabilities, ask their doctor(s) to recommend a facility for a geriatric assessment. These assessments can be done at hospitals or clinics. The evaluation determines your parents’ capabilities for day-to-day activities (e.g., cooking, housework, personal hygiene, taking medications, and making phone calls). The facility can then refer you and your parents to organizations that provide support.
If you can’t be there to care for your parents, or if you just need some guidance to oversee your parents’ care, a geriatric care manager (GCM) can also help. Typically, GCMs are nurses or social workers with experience in aged care. They can assess your parents’ ability to live independently, coordinate round-the-clock care if necessary, or recommend home health care and other agencies to help your parents remain independent.
Don’t try to care for your parents alone. Many local and national caregiver support groups and community services are available to help you cope with caring for your aging parents. If you don’t know where to find help, contact your state’s department of eldercare services. Or, call (800) 677-1116 to reach the Eldercare Locator, an information and referral service sponsored by the federal government that can direct you to resources available nationally or in your area. Some of the services available in your community may include caregiver support groups and training, adult day care, respite care, guidelines on choosing a nursing home, and free or low-cost legal advice.
Finally, once you’ve gathered the necessary information, you may find some gaps. Perhaps your mother doesn’t have a healthcare directive, or her will is outdated. Consider consulting an attorney or other financial professional whose advice you and your parents can trust. Taking these steps will make this transition easier and better for you and your parents.