How to Prepare for Aging Parents

Anticipating the needs of aging parents can be daunting. Yet with open conversation, education, and advance planning, you and your family will be better equipped to handle what the future holds. The best way to start preparing for the needs of your parent is with a conversation. For many this is a difficult subject to broach, but it’s vital to gather information and have a plan in place well before it’s necessary. Not only will it provide peace of mind, but you’re more likely to make better decisions than in the middle of an emergency situation. Set aside time for everyone in the family to be present, either in person or via phone or video chat. This is not the type of discussion to have in passing. It is an opportunity for family members to hear the wishes of the parents. Do they prefer to stay at home for as long as possible? Where would they like to live if home is no longer an option? What kind of financial resources do they have to pay for care?

Identify likely care needs

A little education will go a long way when considering the kind of care a parent may need as they age. Become familiar with the five Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs: Bathing, Dressing, Transferring and Mobility, Toileting, and Eating. Over time, your parents will likely need help with some or all of these activities, which will likely lead to a need for extra care. There are five primary types of elder care to consider for your loved ones:

· Family Care: In this scenario, a family member or loved one provides full-time care, often requiring the aging parent to move into the home. It’s a big commitment of time, money, and energy. It may require the caretaker to work less, install a stairlift or specialty bathtub, and rearrange their life to provide the necessary care.

· In-Home Caregiver: This type of care involves an outside caregiver or nurse who delivers care in the home. This option can be a cost-effective approach for a parent who only requires a little bit of help, as caregivers can be deployed for only a few hours a day or even once a week.

· Assisted Living: This is a live-in facility where residents can receive help with ADLs, but without high-level medical care. This is a great option for parents who have trouble with many ADLs but don’t yet require consistent medical attention.

· Nursing Home: Nursing homes are live-in facilities for residents who require consistent medical care. Registered Nurses are available 24-7, making this the best option for parents with severe medical conditions.

· Memory Care: This is a type of Assisted Living facility that specializes in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Consider Finances

As parents continue to age, their medical costs are likely to rise. It’s important to have an idea of the financial resources available to pay for their care. Consider your parent’s income and savings, as well as any potential debt such as house or car payments. Calculate their current monthly living expenses. How long will their current resources last at that rate? Do they have long-term care insurance to help offset care costs? Are there other family members who have the means to help pay? It can be uncomfortable to discuss money, but these are questions you’ll want answered before the need arises.

Legal planning

In addition to having a plan for the type of healthcare your parents may require, it’s also necessary to be prepared for legal matters that may arise. First and foremost, make sure your parents have a last will and testament, as well as a designated executor. Next, ensure they have a living will, also known as a health care proxy, which ensures their wishes will be followed regarding medical care in the event they fall ill and are on life support. Another important document your parents should have is a financial power of attorney. This allows your parents to designate someone to manage their financial affairs if they become unable to do so themselves. This is especially important for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

It’s impossible to predict the future, but it is possible to be prepared. The sooner you begin to plan for aging parents, the easier it will be to ensure they receive the best possible care.