As your parents age, life can become more complicated. However, if you take the correct precautions you can handle their needs more easily. Here are a few basics that can help you in their later years.
Discuss Issues Early
Parents often don’t want to admit that there may come a time in their life when they need a little help. Nonetheless, they probably will at some time and it’s probably something they’d rather not talk about.
It’s best not to wait until aging becomes a problem, but if your parents are already causing you concern – act. Do some research, set up a planned meeting, and discuss the options with your parents while they’re fit and able. You’ll need to address issues such as financial security, healthcare, legal rights, and options such as in-home care versus assisted living in a care facility.
Your parents may want to stay in their own home until they’re gone, but this might not be feasible. Ask them about their needs and wishes and how they will pay for the care that they need. Assure them that everyone will do their best to honor their wishes, if it is possible. If they’re defensive, you may need to try several times until you get answers.
Also, discuss your family dynamics. Often times, one relative has more contact than others, but not always. Are they the most likely to handle affairs, or would they prefer another?
As your parent ages, you may need to assume greater responsibility for their care. Consequently, you’ll need access to documents that detail their home, health, life, and auto insurance coverage, Social Security benefits, mortgage or lease, retirement savings and investments, and banking information.
You need to review your parent’s monthly expenses, income, debts, and savings so you understand what you can do in certain circumstances. Do they have sufficient money to cover care costs and pay off debts, or will they need to sell their home, car, and other assets?
Also, ask your parents to provide you with a list of doctor names, medications, conditions, and preferred health care facilities. They may also have Medicare insurance or supplement insurance. Copy all these documents for your records and store them in a secure location.
Check Legal Documents
Encourage a visit to your parent’s attorney to solidify their legal documents. They should have a current will so property transfers without legal entanglements.
If they have specific end-of-life wishes, their attorney can write a living will so everyone’s on the same page. You may also ask your parents to grant you durable power of attorney should they be unable to make necessary financial, legal, and medical decisions.
Your parents may not need assistance now, but it’s wise to explore the resources available so you’re prepared if they do. Use the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging Eldercare Locator to find resources in your area.
For most people, in-home care is the most preferable arrangement. Whether you hire a professional or a family member takes on the task, it allows your parents to remain comfortable while they receive the care they need.
When hiring a person to handle personal care, you’ll want to carefully screen candidates and choose a reputable company. If someone in your family decides to care for your parents, they must realize it is a huge emotional and physical responsibility and it can burden their finances too. Plus, home modifications may be needed.
Assisted living offers an alternative option. It includes a private apartment, but with shared meals and activities. If a parent has Alzheimer’s or dementia, they may need a memory care facility which offers assisted living and specially-trained staff.
A nursing home is the best option for parents that need high-level medical care. Licensed nurses attend to needs 24/7. Of course, all options come with various levels of cost.
You may also want to review your parent’s insurance coverage with their insurance agent so everyone understands their policies. It’s a necessary part of caring for your elderly parents and can help you avoid unwelcome surprises when they need their coverage the most.