Living in the present moment is a positive way to approach life. But a little planning can go a long way and save heartache, stress, time and money in the future.
For example, consider what happens if a parent failed to leave an estate plan in place. They might have intended that their valuables and the wealth they generated be distributed to specific family members. However, the probate process in court could take months and result in costly lawyer fees and fighting among family members. Their assets may never be distributed in the way they had wanted.
Most aging parents don’t want to be a burden on their loved ones. Many adult children also have a difficult time broaching certain subjects with their parents. For example, a 2019 study by GOBankingRates found 73% of Americans haven’t had extensive financial conversations with their aging parents.
Talking about important issues and having a plan in place can alleviate unnecessary difficulty in the future. If you’re looking for taking care of aging parents tips, consider these five things you can address now.
To learn more about how to care for elderly parents, check out the Senior Lifestyle blog.
1. Discuss Long-Term Care Options
Your parents may be OK with their living situation now, but physical and mental challenges may affect that in the future. As early as possible, talk with your parents about how they envision their ideal living situation for the rest of their lives. If something were to happen where living on their own is not an option, what would they prefer?
Have the conversation now while your parents are lucid. Every year, there are nearly 10 million new cases of dementia, the World Health Organization reports, with Alzheimer’s disease the most common form, contributing to up to 70% of cases. Talking with parents earlier on ensures you follow their intent.
Some questions to consider include:
- Is their current home safe for aging? Are there hazards or safety issues that should be dealt with?
- In what situations would your parents want to move out of their current home and into a different kind of living situation?
- What housing alternatives are financially viable?
Download the free ebook “The Complete Guide to Senior Housing,” which covers senior housing options like independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. You and your parents can discuss options like these so you can identify the right fit for various situations.
2. Ensure Finances Are in Order
Financial protection is important for both your aging parents and you, their caregiver. As we recommend in our post “Financial Protection for Seniors: 20 Tips for Caregivers & Loved Ones,” it helps to create a financial plan. Offer to accompany your parents to meet with a financial advisor or attorney for guidance on asset protection.
You may need to pay for long-term care like a senior living community in the future. It’s helpful to understand how your parents will be able to financially cover the care they may need and how you can access funds if you’ll be the one paying for their care. Long-term care insurance is an option for future coverage.
In a conversation where you’re discussing present financial management, ask your parents about what their bills today are like. That way, you’ll know what needs to be covered in case they’re incapacitated to pay them themselves.
3. Create a Health Care Plan
Health issue prevention, health maintenance and health treatment are all essential for optimal aging. It’s also important for you to understand the health issues your parents have because some may be hereditary and could affect your own health and well-being.
Health, like finances, can be a sensitive topic. You can download “The Complete Guide to Senior Health and Wellness” to discuss topics like nutrition, health and fitness, and medication management with your parents.
Some aging parents want to insist their health is in excellent condition, even though they may be experiencing challenges. Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following steps when addressing health while caring for aging parents.
- Pay attention to declines in physical appearance, including lack of bathing or brushing teeth.
- Notice changes or neglect in the upkeep of your parents’ home.
- Look for warning signs of notable memory loss that impairs the ability to do everyday tasks.
- Be aware of changes in weight, mood and social relationships.
- Be vigilant of safety issues and hazards at home and any recent accidents, like falling. If you’re taking care of elderly parents at home, the AARP HomeFit Guide has tips for making senior houses safer.
Offer to accompany your parents to their next doctor’s appointment. Ask about what medication(s) your parents are taking. Research what your parents are going through with their health so you know how conditions typically progress and warning signs to look for when your parent needs extra help. Talk with your parent’s doctor if you have your parent’s permission and want better clarity on health issues.
The website PREPARE has a step-by-step guide for creating an advanced directive and preparing for medical care when serious issues arise. Also, check out the government resources listed at the Eldercare Locator, which lists health insurance, benefits, assistance programs and publications to stay informed.
4. Ask About Last Wishes / Estate Planning
Your parents have made efforts throughout their lives to get to where they are now. It helps to have a conversation about the legacy they want to leave behind. If they haven’t met with an estate planning attorney yet to create a trust or will, It’s important that they do that so their assets don’t get tied up in court and cause frustrations when they’re left behind.
Also, it’s helpful to understand how your loved one wants to be remembered among friends and family once they’re gone. What kind of funeral do they want to have? How do they want their remains to be managed? These are tough conversations to have, but they can also bring a sense of comfort that you have their best wishes in mind now and in the future.
The American Bar Association has an Estate Planning Info & FAQs resource, which covers topics including an introduction to wills, information on revocable trusts and asset planning protection. You can go through the FAQs together to learn more about your parent’s options.
5. Help Them Live Their Best Lives Today
Learning about how to take care of elderly parents isn’t just about future planning. Getting older can lead to numerous mental health challenges today. Social circles and family dynamics change. Retirement can lead to a feeling of listlessness or lack of purpose. Uncertainty about the future may pose a threat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 20% of people ages 55 and older face mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. We’ve compiled 40 mental health resources for seniors, including ways to strengthen cognitive aging efforts, reduce anxiousness and decrease stress. Check in regularly with your aging parents about how they’re feeling and how you can support their mental health.
Also, check out adult day center services from the National Adult Day Services Association. Long-term care insurance may cover adult day services, which include social activities, assistance with daily activities and health monitoring in a community-based setting.
Communicate Now for Better Care in the Future
Getting older is a part of life. Talking about subjects on how to care for aging parents today ensures their best interests are taken care of, and you get the support you need as a caregiver. AARP has a helpful “Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families,” which includes tips for starting conversations and setting up caregiving plans.
Learn more about taking care of elderly parents you love in the Senior Lifestyle blog.