As parents age, their adult children often assume greater responsibility for their care. Here are some ways your family can prepare to help your parents age as gracefully as possible.
Begin the Conversation Early
It's not always easy to raise the subject of elder care with an aging parent. But waiting until after the need becomes acute will only make important decisions more difficult. Elder care experts suggest holding a family meeting where parents and caregivers can openly and honestly discuss options regarding daily living needs, health care, financial security, and legal rights. Opening these lines of communication early lets seniors know that their wishes are being heard and gives caregivers time to define and prepare for their new roles.
Collect Key Information
As you assume greater responsibility for your parents' care, you'll need access to important information about their health and finances. Begin to collect or make copies of documentation for your parents' insurance policies (health, home, auto, life), Social Security benefits, Medicare coverage, housing (leases, mortgages), retirement and bank accounts. Also, ask your parents to help you compile a list of their doctors' names, preferred health care facilities and current medications and conditions.
Review Legal Options
Well-constructed legal provisions can help ensure that your parents' wishes regarding their property and care are followed, while giving you the power to step in if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. Make plans to discuss the following legal provisions with your parents and a qualified attorney:
- Wills provide for the transfer of property when a person passes away.
- Living wills communicate end-of-life health care wishes.
- Durable power of attorney gives you the ability to make medical, financial, and legal decisions for your parents.
Seniors may need access to a number of different resources, ranging from daily needs such as meals and personal care to quality-of-life issues such as social activities and transportation aid. The Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging offers an online Eldercare Locator that can connect you with senior services in your area.
Enlist Professional Help
The emotional and administrative complexity of caring for an aging parent can overwhelm even the most conscientious caregiver. A professional geriatric care manager can help you assess your parents' needs and design a care plan that addresses their wishes and abilities.
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