Caring for an aging parent can be one of the most difficult situations that you will encounter in your lifetime. It often takes a great deal of personal sacrifice in order to provide the support that your parent needs. Throughout my career, I have personally witnessed the struggle that family members face when having to care for an aging loved one. This is especially true for the baby boomer generation. An important step to take whether you’re preparing to be or are currently the caregiver is to devise a plan for the many aspects of supporting your aging parent. Here are some ideas to help you cope with the struggle.
Start early – talk to your parents about the future.
Start caring for your aging parents by talking with them about their needs and wishes if they are able. In some cases, however, they may not be willing to talk to you about their future, either because they are afraid to face it or because they resent your interference. If this is the case, you may need to do as much planning as you can without them, or, if their safety or health is in danger, step in as caregiver anyway.
Get organized – prepare a personal data record.
The first step you should take is to ask your parents to help you prepare a personal data record (if they are unable to help you, you’ll have to search for the information yourself). A personal data record is a document that lists information that you might need in case your parents become incapacitated or die. Information that should be included is financial information, legal information, medical information, insurance information, and information regarding professional advisors and the location of important records.
Ask for help – Tip #1: get professional advice.
You can’t know everything, and you probably don’t have enough time to learn everything you need to know to care for your parents. That’s why you should seek advice from professionals. Some advice will be free, and some you will have to pay for. If you live far from your parents or are too overwhelmed to handle all your parents’ affairs, you can hire a geriatric care manager who will evaluate your parents’ situation, suggest options, and coordinate professionals who can help. For more information on geriatric care managers, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or visit their website at www.eldercare.acl.gov.
Ask for help — Tip #2: Housing and health care advice
If your parents are like many older individuals, where they live will depend upon how healthy they are. As your parents grow older, their health may deteriorate so much that they can no longer live on their own. At this point, you may need to find them in-home health care or health care within a retirement community or nursing home. On the other hand, you may want them to move in with you. In addition, you will need information on managing the cost of health care, long-term care insurance, major medical insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Here are some websites that might help you in your research for senior housing options:
A Place for Mom: www.aplaceformom.com
Ask for help — Tip #3: Legal advice
Legal advisors can help you plan for your parents’ incapacity (including preparing documents such as power of attorneys, medical directives, and living wills), contact nursing home ombudsmen, set up and monitor guardianship, prepare wills, give tax advice, and provide bill payment and representative payee assistance. Many states provide funds for the delivery of free legal services to the elderly and many attorneys specialize in elder law, so finding legal advice shouldn’t be difficult. We’d suggest contacting your attorney for more information. Additionally, you could check out this link from the National Elder Law Foundation: https://www.nelf.org/
Money Matters – Financial planning for you & your parents
Making sure that your parents won’t outlive their money is a critical step in ensuring that your own finances will remain sound. In particular, you’ll need to make sure that your parent is receiving all the benefits to which he or she is entitled and that his or her money is invested wisely. If, after considering your parent’s financial condition, it’s clear that they won’t have enough resources to pay for their own care, you may need to find ways to supplement their income. You might consider helping them out. Keep in mind however that besides caring for your parents, you have a lot of other financial obligations. Before determining the best way to help out your parents financially, you’ll need to take a look at your own financial picture.
In the end, good planning can help, but caring for aging parents usually is not easy.
Caring for an aging parent can be a very trying time for every family member involved. Utilizing the resources available can ease some of the burden and ultimately provide the best care for your loved one. If you find yourself in this situation, feel free give us a call (888.401.7274) as we might be able to help. Chances are we have come across a similar situation to what you may be facing before.
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