Whether they want the role or not, adult
children often find themselves in the
position of primary caregiver for their
parents. Unfortunately, many
of us are not prepared for that role. We
often find ourselves so engrossed in how
fast our own children are growing up that
it’s sometimes easy to forget that our own
parents are also aging.
If you haven’t yet, you should start to address
elder care with your parents to make sure that
they are comfortable in their later years. It’s never
too early to start preparing for the responsibility of
caring for parents.
First, arrange your parents’ finances before
illness or death makes it difficult or impossible to
discuss it with them. Collect information about
your parents’ assets, financial information for
bank accounts and other investment vehicles and
passwords for online banking. If they have one,
ask for a key to their safety deposit box and where
they store their important documents.
Make sure that they don’t accidentally neglect
bills. Assign a family member to your parents’ day to-day finances or consider hiring a daily money
manager to assist with bill paying, budgeting and
balancing the checkbook.
Run credit reports with the major bureaus and
analyze all outstanding mortgage, loans and credit
card debt. If possible, help them get their balances
to zero. They might be eligible for government aid.
Consider completing the National Council of Aging
questionnaire to see whether your parents qualify
for federal and state assistance.
It is also crucial that you create a durable power of
attorney to name a person to control your parents’
finances when they no longer can. Without this,
you might face significant delays getting the legal
power to make decisions on their behalf. Guide
your parents to execute a living will as well to
designate someone to make medical decisions
while they are incapacitated.
Also, review your parents' current insurance
coverage including Medicare benefits. The
government program isn't likely to cover all of their
health costs. You might need to look into a Medigap (Medicare supplemental insurance) policy to shore up mom and dad’s coverage.
Talk to your parent’s physician and accompany
them on visits to get a full understanding of their
medical needs and future prognosis. Reach out
to their pharmacist to guard against negative
medication interactions resulting from prescriptions
from multiple doctors.
While your folks are well, it’s a good time to record
their wishes for which type of elder care facility they
want. You should think about whether you should
have them live with you or another relative since
assisted living is expensive and many seniors
prefer to be with family. If they do wish to live in a
facility, look into your options now and plan based
on what's realistic and affordable.
Think about these costs now as you develop a
future timetable. Even if your parents live with you,
be prepared for additional out-of-pocket expenses,
such as home health aides, adult day care, an
electric stair climber, heart and blood pressure
monitoring systems, visiting nurse services and
Food preparation and delivery services might be
necessary when your parents are unable to take
care of their own meals. Research options such as
Meals on Wheels.
Transportation is also an issue for seniors. It
may be difficult for your parents to give up the
independence of car ownership despite declining
eyesight and slower reflexes. Even if your parents
are not at this point yet, it still makes sense to have
a conversation with them now to agree when it’s
time to take away the car as their primary mode
Find other methods, such as car services and
public transport, for your parents to get out.
Your local community or county might also have
special transportation for seniors. There’s also
the option of moving your parents to an area
where it’s easier to get around without a car. A
growing number of people are retiring to cities
for access to public transportation, hospitals and
As a son or daughter, you should do whatever you
can to make your parents comfortable. If you need
more information about how to help them, you can
do research through the:
National Alliance for Caregiving
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
U.S. Government Administration on Aging
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