You notice the changes daily and you know your parents are getting older. Your mother or father may not be able to move as quickly or nimbly, suffer from an illness, or they may not see or hear well.
Consequently, even simple tasks become difficult and they may not admit to their problems. However, ignoring the inevitable doesn’t make the problems disappear. It’s much better to prepare to make the transition easier.
Talk About It
Your parents may not want to talk about potential or existing problems, but they could also be quite receptive. Many people dread bringing up the topic of care only to discover their parents already realize it’s a necessity as they age.
If your parents deny their need or hide their problems, do your research. Check out your options for in-home care, assisted living, and nursing homes. Bring the subject up again and let them know that you will do everything you can to keep them in their home as long as it is feasible.
When your parents realize you’re not trying to send them off so you can forget about them, they’ll probably be more open and relaxed during the discussion. Of course, you’ll need to discuss their wishes and their finances to make things run smoothly.
If you or another family member wants to care for your parents, consider the implications. Caring for aging parents is a very time-consuming and emotional responsibility and it can be difficult to manage. You may want to seek part-time assistance, even if you perform most of the care.
Talk to your parent’s family physician first. They usually know who you can contact in the area and the process. If that’s not possible, use the Eldercare Locator to find appropriate services. Always thoroughly vet in-home care services and screen the candidates carefully.
If your parent wants private living quarters and needs on-call medical care, consider assisted living. They have their own home, but enjoy shared meals and activities. Many times, the second parent can join them later when they need care too. If your parents have serious medical issues, a nursing home may be your only option.
Naturally, your parents want to stay in familiar surroundings, but you may come to a point when that isn’t possible. For instance, conditions can progress or your parent could sustain an injury that demands around-the-clock nursing home or hospital care.
Ask your parents if they have sufficient savings or a pension to pay for care, or will they need to sell their home or investments? You can’t discuss the possibilities unless you understand the realities.
You can’t plan when your parents will need care and you certainly don’t want to scramble for information when the time comes. Ask your parents where they store their important documents such as their insurance policy, mortgage papers, pension information, and banking and investment documents.
Also ask them about their monthly income, expenses, and debts so you understand what money’s available for their immediate needs. Collect the names of their attending physicians, medications, preferred health care facilities and health insurance information too.
If they’re willing, copy the documents and store them in an easily accessible file. Otherwise, keep detailed notes. Always assure them this information is for their benefit so you can care for them in the way they prefer.
Review Legal Documents
Many people don’t have a will or create a will and never look at it again. Others simply don’t want to talk about it, because they believe they will live healthy lives for many years to come.
If your parents haven’t reviewed their will recently, encourage them to update it to ensure there aren’t any problems later. If they don’t have one, they need one. Also discuss whether they’ve assigned an enduring power of attorney if they can no longer handle their affairs themselves.
Let your parents know these precautions are for them, not you. They’ll receive the method of care they want and rest easier knowing the proper beneficiaries will receive what’s intended.
Ask your parents for their permission to review their insurance coverage with their insurance agent. They’ll explain anything you don’t understand and ensure their coverage provides the protection they need. You don’t want to discover their policy doesn’t cover them when they need it most.