Adult children often times find themselves in the position of primary caregiver for their parents. Unfortunately, many of us are unprepared for that role. We frequently find ourselves so engrossed in how fast our own children are growing up that it’s sometimes easy to overlook the fact that our own parents are also aging.
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, you should begin to address elder care with your parents to ensure they are comfortable in their later years. It’s never too early to start getting ready for the responsibility of caring for your parents.
The first step is to arrange your parents’ finances before illness or death makes it difficult or even impossible to discuss it with them. Collect all information about your parents’ assets, financial information for their 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 be sure you know where they store their important documents.
Be sure that they don’t accidentally neglect bills. You could assign a family member to monitor your parents’ day-to-day finances or consider hiring a daily money manager to assist with the tasks of bill paying, budgeting and balancing the checkbook.
Run credit reports for your parents with the major bureaus and analyze all outstanding mortgage, loans and credit card debt. If at all possible, help them get their balances down to zero. Check to see if they are eligible for government aid. Consider completing the National Council on Aging questionnaire to see whether your parents qualify for federal and state assistance.
It is also imperative that you create a durable power of attorney to name a person to control your parents’ finances for if they no longer can. Without this, you could face significant delays in getting the legal power to make decisions on their behalf. Help your parents to create and execute a living will as well to designate someone to make medical decisions if they become incapacitated.
Additionally, review your parents' current insurance coverage including their Medicare benefits. The government program probably doesn’t cover all of their health costs. You might need to look into purchasing a Medigap policy to beef up mom and dad’s coverage.
Talk to your parent’s physician and begin to accompany them on some visits to get a full understanding of their medical needs and future prognosis. Reach out to their pharmacist to help guard against negative medication interactions resulting from receiving prescriptions from multiple doctors.
While your folks are well, it is probably a good time to record their wishes for which type of elder care facility they want to utilize. You should consider whether they should live with you or another relative being that assisted living is expensive and many seniors prefer to be with family. If they do prefer to live in a facility, look into your options now and plan for the future based on what's realistic and affordable.
Thinking about these costs now helps you develop a future timetable. Even if you and your parents decide it is best that they live with you, be prepared for surprise out-of-pocket expenses, such as home health aides, adult day care, installing an electric stair climber, heart and blood pressure monitoring systems, visiting nurse services and physical therapy.
Food preparation and delivery services could be necessary when your parents are no longer able to take care of their own meals. Research options such as Meals on Wheels, Snap Kitchen or Freshly.
Transportation can also be an issue for seniors. It might be difficult for your parents to give up their independence of car ownership despite having declining eyesight and slower reflexes. Even if your parents are not yet at this point, it still makes sense to have a conversation with them now so everyone is on the same page about when it’s time to take away the car as their primary mode of transportation.
You could find other methods, such as public transportation and car services, for your parents to get out and do what they want to do. Your local community or county might also offer special transportation for seniors. There is also the option of moving your parents to an area where it would be easier to get around without a car. A growing number of people are looking to retire to cities that have better access to public transportation, are closer to hospitals and have robust retirement communities.
As a son or daughter, you probably want to do whatever you can to make your parents comfortable. If you need more information about how to best 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